INEZ, Ky. — It was a peculiar way to show pity, but Wesley was grateful, nonetheless.
Normally he was tied to the toilet, forced to sit on the cold concrete floor in a tiny bathroom with no window. But it was unusually frigid that day, and his stepfather, Steve Maynard, decided to tie him to the floor next to the bed instead.
Maynard, Wesley's mother and his two sisters went to church. For once, Wesley was within reach of the grimy little kitchen area, and the aroma of the roast simmering in the Crockpot was irresistible.
"I was starved to death," Wesley says. "I can't remember when it was the last time I ate. . . . I reached over and took a fork and ate a little bit of it."
But when Maynard returned, he found out.
"That's when he got real mad," Wesley says. "That's when he started kicking me right in the ribs, and jumped on my ribs. . . . It went on, God, it seemed like forever."
He knew, he just knew, that his ribs were broken. But like all the other times--and he was routinely beaten, with fists, knives, golf clubs and the solid metal bar Maynard called his "encouragement stick"--Wesley never saw the inside of a hospital.
"It would always have to recover on its own," he says.
For 18 months in 1994 and 1995, during his 14th and 15th years, Wesley Jordan spent much of his time bound by steel cables in the bathroom of the shabby storefront where his family lived and worked. Occasionally, he was allowed out--to work. But, mostly, when he wasn't tied to the toilet, he was chained to the water heater or to a wooden structure Maynard had nailed to the wall.
If someone needed to use the toilet, they would throw a towel over Wesley's head. Although he was right next to the bowl, he was often tied so tightly that he couldn't undress to relieve himself, and he would sit in his wastes for weeks.
He was at the mercy of a man who hated him. For reasons known only to him, Steve Maynard blamed Wesley for anything and everything that went wrong in his life. No one ever noticed that he was torturing his stepson.
On days when the front curtain wasn't drawn, Wesley could peer from the bathroom across the street to the cut-stone walls of the Martin County courthouse and the sheriff's office. The branch office of the state Department for Social Services looks down on the roof where Maynard would sometimes order Wesley to sunbathe, hoping the tan would hide the scars that cover his body.
In a close-knit mountain community of fewer than 600, Wesley was right under the noses of those who could have helped him. But to family, school friends and authorities, he essentially ceased to exist.
"I just felt like nobody really cared for me," Wesley says, almost inaudibly. "It felt like I was a hole in the Earth."
This is the story Wesley tells.
His parents divorced in 1990. Then his mom, Bonnie Jordan, moved in with Maynard, and that's when it all began.
At 5-foot-6 and about 150 pounds, the 36-year-old Maynard is not a commanding presence. But his pale green eyes, thick, dark hair and mustache gave him an almost roguish appeal.
He seemed fairly intelligent, earning his insurance broker's and emergency medical technician's certificates. He dabbled in everything from vacuum cleaner sales and funeral arrangements to running a taxi service.
But he was a gadfly and had gained a reputation as kind of a kook.
"He was always a little different," says Mark Grayson, who taught Maynard history and government in high school. "You could tell he had a little funny air about him."
He ran for Congress in 1992, 1994 and 1996, even filing from jail once. He ran for governor.
When some state newspapers refused to list him as Steven "Butch" Maynard in campaign coverage, he wrote a blistering open letter to "ALL OF THE STUPID IDIOTS IN THE NEWS MEDIA." Meanwhile, he ran his own newspaper, the American Cardinal Tribune, clipping and pasting up articles from established journals.
"The guy was weird," says Phillip Crum, whose father owned the building where the Maynards lived. "When he'd come around, I'd just take off."
In 1993, months before the imprisonment started, someone complained that Maynard was forcing 13-year-old Wesley to work in the hot sun without anything to drink. A social worker interviewed Wesley and his two sisters for about 15 minutes each.
Everyone in the family denied the allegations, the report said.
"Mr. Maynard stated he would not do any child like that," the worker reported. "Risk assessment guidelines were considered during this assessment. A case will not be opened at this time."
Wesley says the beatings started when he was 14. Maynard bloodied his nose in the car during an outing to the Kentucky Horse Park, and from there, it just got worse.
"Once him and Mom got married, then whenever he got mad or something, he'd hit me," Wesley says.