Cruelty and the Comers: At a Certain Point, Being Nice Just Makes It Worse

Meet the Comers

The nauseating news story of the week comes from L.A., where 18-year-old Mitch Comer was seen looking emaciated and confused in a downtown Greyhound bus station. A hundred pounds and 5’3″ tall, the boy seemed lost, and a security guard questioned him. Comer explained that he had just arrived from Georgia, where he had been imprisoned in his parents’ basement since his father pulled him out of an 8th grade class four years ago. Then, on his 18th birthday, they released the boy, and his stepfather took Mitch to the bus station, where they had a touching goodbye

“The story we got was that the stepfather took the kid to the bus depot, said ‘Here’s $200, here’s a list of the homeless shelters in Los Angeles, you’re a man now and don’t come back,'” said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith. This won Paul and Sheila Comer, who live in an affluent Georgia suburb, child abuse and false imprisonment charges as well as a nomination as 2012’s Monstrous Parents of the Year.

It also shows one of the things wrong with the “It’s not the worse thing” rationalization, my personal least favorite of all the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list, in which people try to excuse unethical conduct by noting that it could have been even more outrageous. After parents have imprisoned, abused and starved their teenage son from his 14th year to his 18th, do they really deserve any mitigating kindness points because Dad gave him a measly 200 bucks as he put him on a bus and told him never to come back? Sure, Mitch’s stepfather could have done worse: he could have slashed the kid’s Achilles tendon as he sent him to L.A., for example. At a certain point, however, there is no tangential kindness or mitigating act that changes the essential character of the conduct.

Two hundred dollars, Hallmark card, a kick in the pants or nothing at all—the details make no difference. Yes, the parents could have just beheaded their son, too. The conclusion and verdict remain the same: this is at the very top of the scale of cruel, unimaginably abusive parental behavior, and the 200 dollars should buy Mitch Comer’s  parents no reduction in societal condemnation at all.


Pointer: Fark

Facts: ABC

Graphic: KTLA

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

7 thoughts on “Cruelty and the Comers: At a Certain Point, Being Nice Just Makes It Worse

  1. Did noone know Mitch at 14? Kid gone. Parents still there. No funeral. No farewell party as he heads off to live…. at the grandparents farm? military school? incorrigible kid camp of torture?…. where the heck did they think he went and why didn’t anyone come looking?

  2. Very good point, Danielle.

    Me thinks that there will be many “ethics awards” doled out to many recipients once a few more layers get peeled off. Maybe some serious prosecutions could also be in store.

  3. From the news report I heard, they moved several times in the past four years. Their current neighbors had never seen the boy, but had seen his sisters.

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