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Teenager Finally Escapes Role as Stepfather’s Whipping Boy

ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was a peculiar way to show pity, but Wesley was grateful, nonetheless.

Normally he was tied to the toilet, forced to sit on the cold concrete floor in a tiny bathroom with no window. But it was unusually frigid that day, and his stepfather, Steve Maynard, decided to tie him to the floor next to the bed instead.

Maynard, Wesley’s mother and his two sisters went to church. For once, Wesley was within reach of the grimy little kitchen area, and the aroma of the roast simmering in the Crockpot was irresistible.

“I was starved to death,” Wesley says. “I can’t remember when it was the last time I ate. . . . I reached over and took a fork and ate a little bit of it.”

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But when Maynard returned, he found out.

“That’s when he got real mad,” Wesley says. “That’s when he started kicking me right in the ribs, and jumped on my ribs. . . . It went on, God, it seemed like forever.”

He knew, he just knew, that his ribs were broken. But like all the other times--and he was routinely beaten, with fists, knives, golf clubs and the solid metal bar Maynard called his “encouragement stick"--Wesley never saw the inside of a hospital.

“It would always have to recover on its own,” he says.

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For 18 months in 1994 and 1995, during his 14th and 15th years, Wesley Jordan spent much of his time bound by steel cables in the bathroom of the shabby storefront where his family lived and worked. Occasionally, he was allowed out--to work. But, mostly, when he wasn’t tied to the toilet, he was chained to the water heater or to a wooden structure Maynard had nailed to the wall.

If someone needed to use the toilet, they would throw a towel over Wesley’s head. Although he was right next to the bowl, he was often tied so tightly that he couldn’t undress to relieve himself, and he would sit in his wastes for weeks.

He was at the mercy of a man who hated him. For reasons known only to him, Steve Maynard blamed Wesley for anything and everything that went wrong in his life. No one ever noticed that he was torturing his stepson.

On days when the front curtain wasn’t drawn, Wesley could peer from the bathroom across the street to the cut-stone walls of the Martin County courthouse and the sheriff’s office. The branch office of the state Department for Social Services looks down on the roof where Maynard would sometimes order Wesley to sunbathe, hoping the tan would hide the scars that cover his body.

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In a close-knit mountain community of fewer than 600, Wesley was right under the noses of those who could have helped him. But to family, school friends and authorities, he essentially ceased to exist.

“I just felt like nobody really cared for me,” Wesley says, almost inaudibly. “It felt like I was a hole in the Earth.”

*

This is the story Wesley tells.

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His parents divorced in 1990. Then his mom, Bonnie Jordan, moved in with Maynard, and that’s when it all began.

At 5-foot-6 and about 150 pounds, the 36-year-old Maynard is not a commanding presence. But his pale green eyes, thick, dark hair and mustache gave him an almost roguish appeal.

He seemed fairly intelligent, earning his insurance broker’s and emergency medical technician’s certificates. He dabbled in everything from vacuum cleaner sales and funeral arrangements to running a taxi service.

But he was a gadfly and had gained a reputation as kind of a kook.

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“He was always a little different,” says Mark Grayson, who taught Maynard history and government in high school. “You could tell he had a little funny air about him.”

He ran for Congress in 1992, 1994 and 1996, even filing from jail once. He ran for governor.

When some state newspapers refused to list him as Steven “Butch” Maynard in campaign coverage, he wrote a blistering open letter to “ALL OF THE STUPID IDIOTS IN THE NEWS MEDIA.” Meanwhile, he ran his own newspaper, the American Cardinal Tribune, clipping and pasting up articles from established journals.

“The guy was weird,” says Phillip Crum, whose father owned the building where the Maynards lived. “When he’d come around, I’d just take off.”

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In 1993, months before the imprisonment started, someone complained that Maynard was forcing 13-year-old Wesley to work in the hot sun without anything to drink. A social worker interviewed Wesley and his two sisters for about 15 minutes each.

Everyone in the family denied the allegations, the report said.

“Mr. Maynard stated he would not do any child like that,” the worker reported. “Risk assessment guidelines were considered during this assessment. A case will not be opened at this time.”

Wesley says the beatings started when he was 14. Maynard bloodied his nose in the car during an outing to the Kentucky Horse Park, and from there, it just got worse.

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“Once him and Mom got married, then whenever he got mad or something, he’d hit me,” Wesley says.

Authorities figure the imprisonment began in early July of 1994. Maynard had just lost his second bid for Congress. He and his wife were charged with writing bad checks (she eventually pleaded guilty). And the state had questioned some of the bills charged by his taxi-ambulance service for transporting Medicaid patients.

Wesley says he literally became Maynard’s whipping boy.

“He did say I was evil,” Wesley says, bowing his head. “He kept saying I was trying to plot against him and everything, ruin everything for him. And then, you know, for what happened in the past, he tried to blame on me and stuff. If something went wrong with the business that he was running, he’d blame me for it. And if he wouldn’t get the money in for running his business, I would get blamed for it.”

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Sometimes, Wesley says, Maynard would put a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck and chain it to the wall. If Maynard was particularly angry on any given day, he would make it so tight that Wesley couldn’t sit for fear of hanging himself.

Sometimes Maynard fed him; often, he did not. Wesley’s mother and sisters--Sabrina, now 13, and Montana, 7--sometimes slipped him some table scraps, but eventually they stopped, because they were afraid.

Once, Wesley grabbed a chocolate bar out of the stash Maynard kept from the Halloween candy the children had collected. Maynard came home and noticed it missing.

“He would make me drink bleach and ammonia to see if I could . . . vomit up the candy, so he could see what I ate,” Wesley says.

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Wesley’s nose and finger were broken. His foot got so cold one night that the big toenail fell off.

Maynard and his wife were both trained EMTs, but Wesley says they never treated him. Maynard was more concerned with hiding the scars.

“He would keep saying the only way he’d let me out is if I could get the scars off me,” he says. “He had a little hair spritzer and he’d put Clorox in it, and he’d make me spray myself. He said that when I’d spray it and keep it on there . . . eventually the scars would bleach away, they would peel off, he said.”

The worst happened one night when Maynard accused Wesley of sexually assaulting one of his sisters, years before. Wesley says his mother held him down while Maynard inserted a pair of needle nose pliers in Wesley’s rectum, opening and closing them.

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“Steve’s words were something to the effect that this was what was going to happen to Wesley when he went to prison,” says Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley, the special prosecutor.

Had he molested his sister? Bartley advised Wesley not to say. But Maynard “judged him and he sentenced him and he executed him,” the lawyer says.

*

Wesley’s father, Adam Jordan, could have rescued him. Jordan had visitation rights, but he says he had stopped trying to visit his children years ago because his ex-wife filed charges against him every time he showed up.

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“I dreaded going to jail so much,” he says. “I never went in their home--never.”

The Inez schools could have rescued Wesley too. But somehow, it never happened.

The Maynards had pulled their children out of school in March 1994. They lived on the road for a few months.

“We tried to find them and couldn’t,” says Carroll Kirk, director of pupil personnel and truant officer for Martin County. “Nobody knew where they went to.”

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But Maynard had not vanished. In this period, he ran for Congress; was charged with assault in the beating of a man; and ran for the Democratic nomination for governor (his wife was his running mate and, after a highly publicized battle to participate in a televised debate, he quit the race on the air).

Wesley was declared a dropout when school began in the fall of 1994, at age 14--even though state law forbids children to drop out before they’re 16 and punishes parents who don’t make them go.

Jeannette Oldaker, Wesley’s band teacher at Inez Middle School, had asked around about Wesley, with no luck. So she was surprised to see Wesley unloading a van in front of the family’s store in the fall of 1995.

“He grabbed me and hugged me, but he didn’t tell me anything,” she says. “And I said, ‘Well, how are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m doing fine.’ ”

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*

Wesley wouldn’t see the outside for weeks at a time. When he did get to go out, usually to perform some menial task, he’d steal a glance at the calendar on his way back to the bathroom.

Eventually, he lost all track of time.

“The only time I could tell whether it was day or dark was there were cracks underneath where the floor is,” he says, his voice trailing off to a whisper. “You could see light and day. And you could tell it’s getting close to December or something because it would get cold.”

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Wesley had several opportunities to run and even bolted from the house naked in the snow one evening, only to have Maynard catch him in front of the courthouse and coax him back inside. Maynard sometimes left his 9 mm pistol and shotgun within Wesley’s reach, but Wesley couldn’t bring himself to shoot Maynard.

Maynard claimed publicly that he was a member of the Mafia, and Wesley says he believed him. Maynard would take him to the front door, point to the courthouse and dare him to go and tell.

‘He would just tell me that he knew the sheriff; the sheriff was his cousin’s husband"--this is true, though the sheriff dismisses Maynard as a “sicko” who should be hanged--"and he wouldn’t do anything to him,” he says. “And if he did go to jail, he would have somebody hunt me down and kill me.”

On Nov. 11, 1995, Maynard got Wesley out of the bathroom to work on the car of the family’s pastor. It was raining and snowing, so Maynard went inside. Wesley could hear Maynard and his mother arguing about what a burden Wesley was on the family.

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He ran.

“The only reason I left was because he kept saying the only reason him and Mom couldn’t get along was because of me,” Wesley says. “It was all my fault. I just said, ‘To hell with it. I don’t want to be blamed for it no more. I’ll let them get along.’ ”

Wesley hitched a ride to Jed and Debbie Smith’s house about eight miles out of Inez. He knew their boys and used to play basketball there--but they were shocked at his appearance.

“I didn’t recognize who he was,” says one son, Scott Davis, 16. “Because I had gotten a lot bigger, and he had gotten a lot smaller.”

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They invited Wesley to sit down and have something to eat.

“The little guy, he was starving to death,” Smith says. “He was eating everything he could get a hold of. I mean, he was just gobbling it down.”

Smith says he dropped his cigarette lighter, and when Wesley reached down to pick it up he saw the purplish stripes on Wesley’s arms.

“I told him what Steve told me to tell everybody else: I had a motorcycle wreck. I wrecked, I flipped the motorcycle and it threw me into a barbed-wire fence,” Wesley says.

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But Smith wasn’t buying it.

“I said, ‘Wes, you come down here to talk to me. If you want to tell me anything, you go ahead and talk. I’ll listen,’ ” Smith says. “He said, ‘There’s nothing wrong.’ About a half-hour later, he said could he talk to me in private.”

Smith says he didn’t believe what Wesley was telling him until the boy took off his shirt. What he saw brought tears to his eyes.

“It was unbelievable, bud,” he says. “His ribs on his left side, the whole rib cage looked like it had been broken. They were sticking out. There wasn’t a place on that little boy that wasn’t burnt, bruised or had some kind of mark on it--from the top of his head to his toes.”

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Maynard did not take his arrest quietly. From jail, he sued judges and prosecutors, inundating court officials with rambling handwritten motions accusing everyone from his own attorney to the governor of conspiring against him.

Before it was over, three judges, two prosecutors and a public defender withdrew from the case.

But when it was over, on April 18 of this year, three days before his trial on rape and 90 other charges, Maynard entered an Alford plea to seven counts of assault and one count of unlawful imprisonment--meaning he maintained his innocence, while conceding there was enough evidence to convict. But he immediately appealed, saying Bartley had intimidated him into making the plea.

During a sentencing hearing on May 5, special Judge C. David Hagerman said he wished he could have given Maynard a million years. Instead, he gave him 20, and apologized to Wesley for what happened to him.

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“The community there let you down--school, teachers, others,” he said during the hearing. “There is nothing I can say to make it right, but it’s time to tell you that we care about you.”

On July 15, Bonnie Maynard, 33, also entered an Alford plea to a charge of complicity to unlawful imprisonment. She made no comment; she faces two years in prison and three years of probation when sentenced on Aug. 8.

Wesley is angry at his mother, though she claims Maynard often threatened to kill her and the children if she tried to contact authorities.

“The first time he hit me, she knew about it,” he says. “She could have left him then. The man had to sleep sometime or another when everything was going on. She could have done something then. She had plenty of times she walked over to the courthouse by herself. She could have told somebody something. . . . She just never did.”

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Wesley often wears long-sleeve shirts to cover the scars from his ordeal. His growth was stunted from malnutrition, but he says he has no recurring health problems.

He was seeing a counselor, but claims he needn’t go anymore.

“I got everything worked out, so I quit going,” he says.

State officials placed Wesley with his father’s uncle. But he says he has been spending nights at his father’s home, next door.

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“Oh, I love it,” Wesley says. “That’s what I always wanted to do.”

At 17, Wesley is a year behind in school and admits he’s not applying himself as he should, but he hopes to graduate and go to college. He thinks he would like to be a psychologist and write a book about his experience.

Most of all, he wants a family of his own.

“What would I do with a family?” he says. “I’d give it all the love I could give. I’d do what I can do for a family. I wouldn’t try to bring back what happened to me in the past, put it on another child.

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“That’s what most people think; that if you go through abuse, you’re eventually going to come out and doing the same thing as what’s happened to you. No, I want to prove everybody else wrong.”


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