When officers searched the home, they noticed the structure in the garage, and asked what it was for; according to court documents obtained by CBS12, Tracy first told them it was used as an office, then a storage room, then a room that was sometimes utilized by all her children.
Taking a closer look, officers noticed it had a deadbolt and doorknob, both of which allowed it to be locked from the outside. The only light switch was also on the exterior.
Inside, they found a mattress, a bucket, a desk with school books — and a Ring camera.
The following day, officers tracked down the boy at his school — Independence Middle School — and interviewed him about what was going on at home.
Asked why he ran away, the teen replied "because I feel like no one loves me", and that he did not feel safe at home.
He told investigators he was locked in the room for up to 18 hours a day; meals were brought to him, and he had to use the bucket as a toilet, which he was forced to clean out himself.
He said he was subjected to physical abuse including spanking, and being hit with a belt and jump rope; he even said he'd been spit on on multiple occasions.
According to the report, he then begged officers to arrest him because "he would rather be in prison than be back at home."
On February 1, investigators served a search warrant for the Ring camera footage; they say it corroborates much of the teen's story, with thousands of videos showing him being locked in the structure every day.
They also interviewed one of the boy's siblings, who confirmed the brother got locked in there whenever he was misbehaving or in trouble.
The couple were arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment. They were ordered held on $50k bond each, and to have no contact with their four children, unless authorized by the Department of Children and Families.
The pair have have since bonded out. Their other three children meanwhile — the youngest of whom is two years old — were taken in by Child Protective Services. The court heard no mention of abuse against the other three children.
In court on Wednesday, the couple's defense attorney Nellie King presented the judge with documents suggesting the teen had "reactive attachment disorder" — a condition in which a child doesn't form a healthy emotional bond with their parents or guardians, and that this may have been the reason the teen was confined. Investigators said his mother had also said he had behavioral problems.
One detail remains unclear: according to Jupiter Police Department, the teen had been forced to live in the garage structure since 2017.
However court documents show the family had lived in Jupiter from 2002 to 2018, before moving to Arizona for four years, only moving back to Palm Beach County again this year.
TooFab has reached out to Jupiter PD for clarification on whether they believe the teen was locked in the structure in Arizona too, and that the family brought it with them when they moved.
"Law enforcement has an obligation to conduct investigations in an objective and thorough manner. I made information known to the police in order to assist them in the fact finding process, including evidence from Arizona where this family had lived up until a month ago. This critical evidence was ignored," King said, per WPTV.
"In the criminal legal system, the temptation for a community to rush to judge is tempered by the judicial process, a presumption of innocence, and the facts. What Tim and Tracy have lived through the past many years will therefore be presented in court."