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Police: Montgomery County couple locked autistic twins in basement

This combination made with booking photos provided by the Montgomery County, Md. Police shows John Land, left, and his wife, Janice Land. The couple allegedly kept their autistic, twin adult sons locked up at night in small basement room with no furniture or electricity in their Rockville, Maryland, home. (AP Photo/Montgomery County Police)

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County Police say they visited the home where two men were found locked inside a darkened, urine-soaked basement but had not discovered the plight of the 22-year-old twins until Friday.

“Thus far, it does not appear that police or HHS missed anything,” said Russ Hamill, assistant chief of police for Montgomery County.

Hamill told reporters at a news conference that the men, who have autism, had been getting services through Montgomery County, but the fact that their parents, John and Janice Land, were reportedly locking them in a darkened basement at night had not been reported — either to police or to social service workers.

“If it was noted, we would have taken immediate action on it like we did on Friday.”

A neighbor, Sharon Drennan, told ABC7 she had reported that someone had reportedly locked an autistic person in at the Twinbrook home of the Land family.

Hamill and Rockville City officials say they have no such report. Hamill does say that police had visited the home on a number of occasions.

“In November of 2013 we were there for an assault call, we assisted fire and rescue with a call there in February of 2014, and there was a general investigation call at the end of March.”

Hamill added there had been calls to the home related to drug investigations.

Hamill says the twins reportedly attended a program outside the home during the day, and suggested that because the Lands reportedly locked the twins up at night, police would not have observed their conditions until Friday, when they were executing a search warrant at about 5 a.m.

Hamill expressed the same puzzlement that autism advocates do at the idea that parents who were plugged into county services during the day would resort to locking up two adult men at night.

“Think about it: Does that sound like a reasonable solution? To lock two vulnerable adults into a room in those conditions at any point? Especially when you’re receiving services? When so many services are available?”

Hamill says the two young men have been removed from the home and the parents face charges of abuse of vulnerable adults and false imprisonment.

Maryland and several local jurisdictions provide resources for parents and caretakers of those with autism. In addition, the Montgomery County Police Department runs Project Lifesaver, another resource for family members of those with autism.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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