On July 29, 1995, 17-year-old Joseph Clark abducted 13-year-old Thadius “Thad” Phillips from his home in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Later known as the “Bonebreaker Killer,” Clark kidnapped fellow teen boys and systematically broke their bones. During his captivity, Thad endured days of physical and psychological misery. Clark—in between feigning as if the teens were friends—would snap Thad’s leg bones and then crudely tend to the wounds. He left his captive imprisoned in a closet when he left the home, believing Thad was incapacitated.
After a total of 43 hours, Thad managed to descend a flight of stairs, find a phone, and call 911. He survived, having sustained permanent injuries, and authorities then uncovered other crimes Clark committed against teen boys. Based on the manner in which Clark wounded Thad, investigators linked Clark to the 1994 murder of another Wisconsin teen—14-year-old Chris Steiner. Clark attempted to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but the courts found him fit to stand trial. The “Bonebreaker” received a 100-year sentence for his crimes against Thad and a subsequent sentence for Chris’s death.
The Gruesome Maltreatment Went On For Days
The torment inflicted upon Thad was severe, occurring for hours at a time. Clark reportedly mistreated Thad as a way to manage his daily frustrations. In one case, Clark's car wouldn't start, so he twisted Thad's legs until they splintered, then broke the boy's knees, and even jumped on his chest.
When Thad tried to fight back or escape, the torment grew more brutal. Clark pushed a pillow over Thad's face to suffocate him. The abuse took place for approximately 43 hours. When rescued, Thad was in a reportedly life-threatening condition.
Thad Tried To Escape And Fight Back
Though much smaller than Clark and still in his early teens, 90-pound Thad attempted to stop his abuser. During the first attack, Thad fought back against Clark, pushing him away and managing to descend the stairs before the next attack.
Even with blood pooling in his body from internal injuries, having his legs broken in numerous places, and enduring days without food, Thad never gave up. He attempted three escapes during his capture.
Thad Physically Threw Himself Down The Stairs To Call For Help
When Clark went to see friends or work on his car, he would leave Thad in the bedroom upstairs. He assumed the boy couldn't break out of a closet, make it down a flight of stairs with broken legs, and manage to call for help.
Thad had to physically throw himself down a flight of stairs, then crawl using only his hands and arms - often in the dark - to find help. In the process, he would lose consciousness several times and lay passed out on the floor for unknown durations.
During his final escape effort, Thad managed to locate a phone and pull it down off the wall. He dialed 911 and told the police where he was and what had happened. The police drove to his location and saved him before Clark returned home. A short time later, authorities arrested Clark.
Clark Pretended To Give Thad Medical Care
Aside from pretending to act like a friend, Clark also oscillated between causing damage and giving care. When he finished a session of breaking bones, Clark would take white socks and wrap them over Thad's broken legs until they became thick paddings of fabric.
Clark also had a pair of leg braces he would put on Thad, and then would try to get him to walk. He would then continue the cycle of abuse.