GLEN ST. MARY, Fla. -- For the first time, a relative of the man accused of chaining a teen to a bed is speaking out.
It was a nightmare for a local 18-year-old. Police say he was chained to a bed, hit with a bat and kept against his will. Police say the teen's uncle, Troy Howell, is to blame for all of it.
Now for the first time, one of Howell's relatives is speaking out about the claims. "I was totally shocked, heartbroken and I bawled for the whole afternoon. Chaining the older one down like that. It's unbelievable, like it's a nightmare. Troy's dad didn't raise kids that way," said the relative.
The relative doesn't want to be identified, but says this is not the young man who came to visit her for so many years. "Troy was always, as far as I knew, was good to the kids. He was more like a brother than an uncle. They all grew up together."
She tells Action News, Howell had custody of the 18-year-old and his other siblings since 2009. That's when Howell's father died.
This relative just wishes Howell had asked for help. "Obviously no one knew it was going on. It's been going on for months. It's extremely shocking to me and the family because we can't understand what pushed him to that point," said the relative.
Howell was charged with witness tampering. Investigators are now listening to a prison phone call he made to his 13-year-old niece. According to Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, Howell called his niece from jail one day after his arrest. He's accused of threatening the teen during that phone conversation.
Sheriff Dobson tells Action News since inmates do not have a right to privacy during prison phone calls, the conversation can be used against him.
The relative says she's read the allegations and she just hopes the kids and Howell get the help they need. "They are my biggest worry. They're young and innocent. I'm hoping when he's in prison, he can get the help he needs," said the relative.
The other two kids who were in the home are now in foster care. The Baker County sheriff says Howell is being kept in isolation in jail for fear the other inmates could possibly kill him.