In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, a young boy is hard at work in the yard of a comfortable home. That boy is Gregory Jean Jr., and as his neighbors look on, they have no idea that he has been missing for four long years. Ultimately, however, he manages to leave a trail of clues pointing to his whereabouts, and his extraordinary story is unraveled at last.
Back in 2010, Gregory was living with his mother, Lisa Smith, in Orlando, Florida. His father, Gregory Jean Sr., was not married to Lisa, and the pair were living apart. Nevertheless, they had established an informal agreement that saw Gregory Sr. send funds to help Lisa care for Gregory Jr. and his brother, Samuel.
Although his parents were no longer together, Gregory Jr. made every effort to stay in contact with his father. Each day, when he came home from school, he would speak to Gregory Sr. on the telephone. And despite the family troubles, he admitted that he loved his dad.
Then, that year, everything changed. By that time, Gregory Sr. was living in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. He had married a woman named Samantha Joy Davis and started another family. However, he seemed to still want to be a part of Gregory Jr. and Samuel’s lives, and so the dad suggested that they make a trip to see him in Georgia.
Together, Gregory Jr. and Samuel traveled more than 400 miles to see their father and meet his new family. However, something went wrong. By the time that the visit was over, Samuel had returned home to Lisa – but Gregory Jr. was nowhere to be seen.
When Gregory Jr. failed to appear, Lisa informed the Orlando court services; but for reasons unknown, she did not notify the police. Consequently, for the next four years, Gregory Jr. remained missing. And although Lisa spoke to her son on one or two occasions during that period, she had no idea where he was living.
Finally, on November 28, 2014, Gregory Jr. contacted Lisa out of the blue. Apparently, he had been able to get hold of a cellphone and send a message to his family – who had never stopped looking for the boy. So, armed with the address of where her son was located, Lisa got in touch with the police.
Soon, then, police arrived at the address – a comfortable, single-story property with a garage, on the outskirts of Atlanta, GA. However, there was no sign of Gregory Jr. To avoid detection, it seems that Davis had ordered the boy into the garage, where he had apparently been made to hide behind a false wall.
Luckily, though, Gregory Jr. would not be kept down. When police failed to find him on their first visit, the boy contacted his family again. This time, moreover, Lisa was able to tell them exactly where to look. So as her son texted updates, Lisa guided the authorities directly to his hiding place.
At last, then, officers discovered a grateful Gregory Jr. and took him away from his father’s house. That same night, Lisa got in her car and drove all the way to Atlanta to collect her long-lost son. Hence, accompanied by her daughter Tracy Guervil, she had an emotional reunion with Gregory Jr., then 13.
But as television cameras captured the outwardly happy scenes, the awful details about Gregory Jr.’s alleged ordeal began to emerge. According to him, things had seemed normal at first. Apparently, Davis told him that the arrangement was better for his father financially and that his real mom did not want him to return home.
During that first year, Gregory Jr. was even enrolled at middle school in Atlanta. But events at his father’s house soon took a turn for the worse. In contrast to the comforts that his step-siblings enjoyed, Gregory Jr. was made to sleep on a makeshift bed in the garage with only a flimsy cover for warmth.
Moreover, that was only the beginning. It appears that Gregory Jr. was also refused food and subjected to physical abuse. And in a truly humiliating move, the boy was apparently not even allowed to use a proper toilet. “She made me go to the bathroom in a bucket,” he told MailOnline in 2014. “And they would all watch me. It was embarrassing.”
Instead of enjoying his childhood, then, Gregory Jr. was compelled to live as little more than the family’s domestic help. “I felt like a maid,” he said. “I had to clean the house and yard, and if there was even a leaf out of place my step-mom would beat me with a stick.”
According to Gregory Jr., he wasn’t even allowed to watch television with the other children; instead, he was punished for imagined infractions and made to read the dictionary and copy out lists of words. Heartbroken at his situation, the boy apparently spent his nights crying, determined nevertheless to one day make his way home.
In an attempt to escape, Gregory Jr. confided in a counselor at school. However, when authorities arrived at the family’s home, Davis seemingly hid the evidence of the abuse. And despite her prior conviction for child cruelty, by all accounts she was believed.
Furthermore, as retribution for talking to the authorities, Gregory Jr. was withdrawn from school. Apparently, Davis even prevented him from enjoying Christmas with the rest of the family. Although he still received presents, they were given to the other children to enjoy.
Strangely, too, although Davis’ neighbors sometimes saw Gregory Jr. working outside the house, they never cottoned on to what was allegedly happening behind closed doors. “He kept that yard immaculate,” one of them told CBS Evening News in 2014. “There was no evidence of distress, [and] it didn’t seem like he was reaching out, like, ‘Oh please help me.’”
Still, thanks to his quick thinking, Gregory Jr. is now back in Orlando with Lisa and their family, all of whom are delighted to have the boy home. And happily, it seems that the feeling is mutual. “Whatever anyone else gets for Christmas I don’t care,” Gregory Jr. told MailOnline. “This is my Christmas present, to be back with my family.”
Meanwhile, Gregory Jr.’s father and stepmother are, according to most recent reports, awaiting trial for their alleged role in the boy’s ordeal. Yet, incredibly, he harbors no bad feelings towards the pair and insists that he doesn’t want either of them to end up in jail. Instead, the teenager is focused on living his own life and plans to help others by becoming a lawyer.