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Documents: Uncle chained up teenage runaway to keep him home

PEOSTA, Iowa — The parents and uncle of a 13-year-old Iowa boy and frequent runaway are accused of padlocking a weighted chain around his waist to him to keep him home, according to court documents.

Michael and Cynthia Kobusch, both 49, and her brother, Jeffrey Merfeld, 50, who all live in Peosta, are charged with child endangerment causing injury.

Court documents say the boy was reported missing Dec. 30 and that when he was found Jan 11, he had a handwritten account of what he said was abuse by Merfeld.

The boy had run away in October and, after he was found Nov. 8, his older brother took him to his uncle's for care because their parents were away. Before his parents returned Nov. 12, the boy said, Merfeld padlocked a chain around his waist and attached a weight. The court documents provide various assessments of the heft of the chain and weight, but don't describe how much they restricted his mobility.

The boy said his parents left the chain on for two days after they returned to Peosta, 180 miles (290 kilometres ) northeast of Des Moines.

The documents say Cynthia Kobusch told an investigator that she had been searching for a way to attach a GPS to her son and had asked her brother to "make a chain" and fashion it so the boy couldn't cut it off.

The documents say Merfeld acknowledged putting the chain around the boy.

Merfeld told The Associated Press on Thursday that the allegations were "not true at all," but declined to comment further.

The Kobusches have not returned a call requesting comment and court documents don't list attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

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