BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — A local man who was reportedly kidnapped and kept in a dog cage for a year speaks with 59News about his experiences.
Gerald Bennett of Beckley was looking for romance nearly two years ago when he met a woman named Amber on a dating app. He said they moved in with Amber’s friends in Montcalm, a married couple named Walter and Trisha Lee. He added Amber became pregnant, but the relationship ended and she left, eventually losing the child to foster care.
Bennett, who has special needs, said he was living alone with the Lees.
He said the Lees traded in his cell for a phone the couple gave to him but fully controlled. He said they gave him “privileges” to use the phone.
“I didn’t know you was supposed to have privileges, just to have a phone so you can get hold of your relatives and stuff,” Bennett said on Monday, December 19, 2022.
Bennett alleged the Lees helped to sign him up for food stamps and Social Security benefits. He said he is still waiting to hear from Social Security regarding the benefits but did receive food stamps for a time when he lived with the Lees. He said the couple “gave permission” for him to eat one meal a day.
He alleged they locked the doors to the refrigerator when he began to get hungry and look for food. He said that, if he was able to get food, the couple accused him of stealing and would beat him.
Both of them participated in the beatings, said Bennett. One beating was especially vicious, he reported.
“Walt grabbed the propane tank, first. He used it,” said Bennett. “Then grabbed the fan and used it.”
That beating left him with multiple injuries. On December 19, 2022, his body was covered with bruises, burn marks and lacerations, in various stages of healing.
He alleged he was “punished” for small things, like falling asleep when he was supposed to watch the couple play a video game. Bennett alleged Walter beat him with his fists and knees.
He was regularly forced to sleep in a dog cage, which was covered with a blanket, he said. Bennett said it was “Tricia’s idea” to place him in the cage, but Walter did not intervene”
“She thought I was looking at her like she was a piece of meat and giving her glares and bad looks,” he said, explaining the reason he was allegedly forced into the cage. “Trish had the keys to the locks. There was two locks on the cage, and Trish kept them close by her.”
He said it did not appear Tricia was afraid of Walter during his stay in the Lees’ mobile home and that he never saw Walter physically abuse Tricia.
Bennett said he asked to leave but Walter told him he would have to leave naked, and he feared he would be arrested.
He says he can’t remember the day he was dropped off at Welch Community Hospital, where he reportedly had a body temperature of 90 degrees and was placed on life support and then transported to a Kentucky hospital.
A surgeon in Kentucky performed a serious surgery to restore his previously broken jaw, placing a steel plate in his jaw.
Now at home with his father, Buddy Bennett, Gerald said he’s recovering.
“I can open my jaw a whole lot more than what I could,” he said. “Still on a liquid diet until my next doctor appointment.”