Couple took man's baby, kept him hostage for over 20 years
A Toronto couple is accused of keeping a homeless man with mental disabilities hostage for nearly 25 years while claiming his son as their own.
Gary Willett Sr. and his wife, Maria, are on separate trials in Canada for a slew of charges that exposed a bizarre, twisted tale involving stolen identities, beatings and an eventual escape.
The case goes back to 1989, when the couple found Tim Goldrick scrounging for food in downtown Toronto. The Willetts found Goldrick and his romantic partner, Barbara Bennett, in an apartment in their building, according to the Toronto Star, which reviewed weeks of court testimony.
In September 1989, Bennett went into the hospital to deliver her son with Goldrick. Maria Willett helped Bennett fill out the paperwork and let her use her insurance card.
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“I figured if I didn’t (use Maria’s card) I’d probably get hit,” Bennett testified, according to the Star. “At that time, I didn’t know if it was wrong or not.”
Willett Sr. disagreed with the sequence of events, saying his wife wasn’t at the Toronto hospital.
The baby wound up on the birth certificate as Gary Willett Jr. and the Willetts listed as his parents.
The couple had already adopted two children, but told people Gary Jr. was their biological son.
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They continued living with Goldrick and Bennett, moving around several times before settling at a home in Toronto’s North York section.
It was at that home that Willett really began abusing Goldrick and Bennett, who according to the Star had learning disabilities and collected government welfare checks.
“I would get hit and get told to do it again. Clean it up. Clean up the mess,” Bennett reportedly testified about Maria Willett’s treatment. “I would get slapped. In the face . . . Three or four (slaps) depending on how mad she was.”
She became pregnant in 1993, according to the Star, from a relationship she had with Willett Sr.’s brother.
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Bennett had the baby, Billie-Jean, later that year and soon decided to leave the home.
Goldrick was forced to stay with the family, especially after they moved again.
He was made to live in a tiny section of the Willett’s basement while they raised his son, the Star reported. Willett Sr. would monitor the home through seven surveillance cameras he’d set up.
Goldrick later testified he was severely beaten, especially if he took food out of the refrigerator, which had a camera on it, according to the Star.
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“Sometimes, while I was sleeping, Gary (Sr.) would come in and hit me for no reason, and I’d wake up and I wondered why he did this,” he testified. “But I never found out why.”
He told the court he was forced to eat dog food, which Willett Sr. testified he told Goldrick not to do.
The 6-foot-3 Goldrick’s weight at one point shriveled down to 106 lbs., the Star reported. His teeth also severely decayed.
Goldrick’s $ 900 disability check mostly went to cover rent and food, Willett Sr. testified.
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Willett Jr. — who’d one seen Goldrick spitting up blood — was unaware of what was really going on, but had his own problems, according to the Star.
He left home a few years after dropping out of high school.
A visit home five years ago turned sour, and Willett Jr. was later told by relatives that Goldrick was actually his father. His parents said that wasn’t true.
Willett Jr., out driving with a friend, later spotted Goldrick walking on the sidewalk during one of his rarely allowed trips out of the home.
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“And we said, ‘Listen, Tim, if you want out and you want a better life, then you come with us now,’” Willett Jr. testified.
After some slight coaxing Goldrick got in the car and left for good.
One of Maria Willett’s biological children in 2014 got in touch with Billie-Jean Bennett, the baby born to Barbara Bennett in 1993, according to the Star.
She found out what happened and connected with her half-brother, Willett Jr.
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But he told the Toronto Star he no longer speaks with his biological mother because she’s not forthcoming with the facts.
“Not once did my real mother go looking for me,” Willett Jr. told the newspaper.
Goldrick now lives with his biological son in a Toronto apartment, where he still struggles with the trauma.
“I take pills for the shakes and nighttime pills for sleep,” he told the Star. “I have nightmares because of this.”
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