Police: Autistic Florida man held in dungeon-like room

The Miami HeraldAugust 3, 2013 

MIAMI -- A man with autism taken Thursday night from a Sweetwater trailer home where his mother allegedly kept him in squalid conditions, according to Sweetwater police.

His mother, Gladys Jaramillo, 56, who resides in the Li'l Abner Mobile Home Park, admitted keeping her emaciated son, George Portugal, locked in a small, sweltering room that police called "dungeon-like." She was charged with aggravated abuse and neglect of a mentally disabled adult, and false imprisonment.

A Peruvian native, Jaramillo is in a Miami-Dade County lockup reportedly pending an immigration hold. Portugal's immigration status is unclear. He's thought to be 30 years old.

Sweetwater police spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree said Portugal was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center in the care of Department of Children & Families staffers.

Shortly after police entered the empty trailer Thursday night, Jaramillo and Portugal returned. Hammontree, who was there, said the place reeked of urine and feces.

"As soon as you walk in, the smell slaps you in the face," Hammontree said.

She described Portugal as "very pale and very thin," with dark hair. She said he sat on a couch next to his mother silently, looking down with his hands in his lap.

His room contained a bare mattress streaked with human waste. Hammontree described the room as "sweltering, with stains everywhere. Not one thing hanging in the closet, no light, no air conditioner, with a rusted iron deadbolt on the outside of the door. I wouldn't keep my cats in those conditions."

Hammontree said neighbors told police they'd seen Portugal roaming in a diaper, eating dog food and raiding a neighbor's outdoor freezer for frozen fish, which he'd eat on the spot.

She said Jaramillo, a "petite" brunette, asked, "'Are you going to help us?' She looked really worried ... and was crying in the jail cell."

According to the arrest report, Jaramillo told police she sedated her son and then left him locked in the room to go out with her boyfriend.

Portugal and Jaramillo were already known to DCF, according to agency chief Esther Jacobo, but she would not elaborate.

Lisette Montes de Orca, a spokesperson for the seven-member partnership that owns Li'l Abner park, said she didn't know the family, and that park personnel have no authority to enter the privately owned homes. She said that about 4,000 residents live in trailers on 908 rented lots in the 101-acre park.

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