Son's Tales of Abuse Tell of Secrets, Love
Newsday (Melville, NY)
Author: Rita Giordano. STAFF WRITER
One day last week, a young man was temporarily let out of his maximum-security prison cell to speak with a reporter.
Troubled thoughts seemed to tie up his mind like the manacles that bound his ankles and hands. He said he was born Mark Anthony Knighton, and when he was 6 years old, he was adopted by the man who would change his name and his life.
From the beginning, there was abuse, he said. "My [adoptive] brothers used to wake me up, throw stuff at me, jump me, beat me up."
He said he told their father. "He just didn't do nothing." His father is Kodzo DoBosu, the Harlem adoptive father of 44 and former father of the year who now is charged with sexually abusing his 14-year-old daughter and is facing other allegations.
The young man is Kekeletso DoBosu, 20, one of the adopted children. In recent Family Court hearings involving the sexual abuse charge, allegations of further abuse within the home made by Kekeletso and a 19-year-old sister prompted the judge to order DoBosu to leave the home and have no contact with his 19 children who are under age 18.
The 19-year-old sister, the birth sister of the 14-year-old, went to court to testify about alleged abuse of other children in the house which she said she had observed.
Kekeletso's allegations, however, were delivered by a New York City detective who went to Ohio to question him in June. During the court hearings, Kekeletso was, as he is now, imprisoned in a special security unit for inmates with psychiatric problems.
And Kekeletso would not deny that he is a troubled young man. Currently imprisoned in the Lebanon Correctional Institution for armed robbery with seven years to go before he is eligible for parole, he said he already has done time for assault. He also said he had been in mental institutions at least twice, and is now on medication and receiving psychiatric care.
But he said the allegations of abuse against his father that he made to the detective are true. During recent hearings, other siblings testified that they knew of no abuse in the DoBosu household.
Kekeletso, however, in a nearly two-hour interview, professed to have torn feelings about speaking out and about his father - feelings that range from anger to love.
He said he was "shocked" when New York investigators told him about the current charges against his father. He said he even doubted it.
"My dad wasn't like that. He wouldn't mess with the sisters, the girls," he said.
"He gave my sisters . . . respect."
Nevertheless, he told of beatings that he said he had witnessed or had been subjected to in the family. And very reluctantly, in seeming pain, he gradually talked about the sexual abuse he says he endured from his father for years. All of which he said caused him to turn more and more to the streets, and to trouble.
"When I was being brought up, I really didn't have a choice," he said. "Either stay in the house and look at the abuse, abuse things that was going on, or go out in the street and see the same thing. I'd rather hang out in the street."
Kekeletso said he can't remember the years before he was placed in the DoBosu home. He said he knows he was born in Harlem and put up for adoption at birth. He said he knew nothing of his natural parents other than what he said DoBosu has told him: that his birth father was an alcoholic and his mother was a drug addict. He learned his birth name, he said, by rummaging through DoBosu's papers.
When he first was taken into DoBosu's home at age 6, it was an apartment in a housing project in Harlem. About two years later, the family moved to the Striver's Row house where they most recently lived. Then, he said, when he was about 13 and DoBosu had been named a father of the year by the National Father's Day Committee, the family moved yet again. This time it was to Columbus, Ohio, where DoBosu had been hired as an official with the state social services department. DoBosu moved back in the late 1980s, but Kekeletso didn't.
Twice during his teenage years, Kekeletso said, his father checked him into mental hospitals - one in Ohio when he was about 15 and one in Chicago a couple of years later. By the time he was 18, he said, he had his first jail term.
According to Kekeletso, corporal punishment in the house was meted out by DoBuso and four of his brothers, including one of his father's staunch defenders.
His father, he claimed, administered the actual beatings.
"He did the beatings," Kekeletso said. "That's when he'll be, he'll hit you, you fall on the floor, you cry. He'll tell you to get up. If you don't get up, he just starts swinging. I mean, you know, he'll keep on doing it until he sees blood or until he got tired."
What seemed much harder for Kekeletso to talk about was the sexual abuse he told the New York detective he suffered.
"It happened when I was about 9, about 9 years old," he said. But he refused to elaborate.
The detective testified in Family Court that Kekeletso told him that once, when he was sick, DoBosu came to cuddle him. When he woke he was being sodomized, the detective told the court. When told of the detective's testimony last week, Kekeletso confirmed that he said it and that it was true.
Much later during the interview, Kekeletso said the abuse happened "numerous times." He said it happened "most all the time when I was sick."
He said he discussed it with no one and thought he was the only one in the house it was happening to until he was 15. He said then, some of the boys in the family started putting a tape recorder in their father's bedroom. He said when they played the tapes the reaction was usually uncomfortable laughter, "like, `Can you believe this?' I mean, this is your dad, he's no regular man."
But he said, like with most anything else, "we all kept it in the house."
Kekeletso claimed that sometimes the father warned the children what would happen if they let family matters out of the house. One time, in New York before the family left for Ohio, he said one of his sisters was alleging she had been abused.
"In New York when that incident happened he told people, he said, `You can either sit there and tell what goes on or you can back up your dad because there ain't nobody out there that wants you, you're too old.' Things like that."
Around the time Kekeletso said the sex abuse began he also said he was spending more and more time on the streets getting into trouble. "That's what I think drew me away from my dad," he said quietly. "That incident. Those incidents."
Those incidents, which he alleged in a halting fashion, he said he finds hard to discuss. "Because you know after you say it the way you feel about yourself and the way the people that you told feel about you . . . " He drifted off.
"I feel dirty, man, like not worth living for."
But, he said, when he finally told those allegations to the New York City detective who visited him in June, it was not out of revenge.
"I feel . . . ," he sighed, "I feel like I'm doing what's right."
And yet, he said, he has tried to keep some contact with his father since he has been in prison. He said he calls him, although DoBosu does not always accept his calls. He remembered the trip the family took to Africa and the snakeskin watch he said DoBosu bought for him. With rare and small laughter he said, "That was about the nicest memory I got - the trip."
The watch, however, got lost somehow when his father checked him into the psychiatric hospital in Chicago, and now there is a possibility the DoBosu family ultimately will be dispersed.
Sitting in a prison office, Kekeletso says he believes that somehow this all may bring siblings closer. "We gotta help each other now," he said. "It's not like Dad no more."
And of his feelings for his father, he said, without pause, "It might sound untrue, but I loved my Dad, man, I mean, even though all those bad things happened."
Why, he was asked. His reply was simply, "He's my Dad."