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.
On July 29, 1995, 13-year-old Thad was sleeping on the couch in his new home in Baraboo, WI. The family had recently moved in. When someone picked Thad up off the couch, he figured it was one of his parents, taking him to bed.
Disoriented when he woke up, Thad found he was outside with an unfamiliar, older teen boy. The boy seemed friendly, asking if Thad could run with him. Thad, still sleepy and confused, went with the boy back to his home, which he claimed to live in with his brother.
Once there, the mysterious boy introduced himself as “Joe” and said he would soon throw a party. He named other boys Thad knew and said they'd be there soon. In the meantime, he asked if Thad wanted to check out cool model cars upstairs. Thad followed, unaware that he was a victim of a kidnapper known as the “Bonebreaker.”
Once Thad was upstairs, Clark completely shed his friendly teen persona. He grabbed the boy and threw him on the dirty bed, jumped on him, and grabbed him by the ankle. He then began to twist Thad's foot around his leg until the bone above his ankle snapped and splintered.
Thad, feeling more shock than pain, leaped off the bed and tried to run down the stairs on his broken leg, but Clark quickly caught him. Thad then suffered further injuries, including punches and kicks until he could no longer struggle.
In an interview, Thad said he most vividly remembers the feeling of friction in his broken leg bones as he tried to get away - the pain did not eclipse this sensation.
After the initial attack broke Thad's leg near the ankle, Clark threw the shocked boy on the couch downstairs. Thad, trying to figure out an escape plan, told Clark he wouldn't tell anyone what had happened and that he'd say he tripped over a table. Clark maintained no one would believe this.
Thad then attempted to reason with Clark, asking why he would do this. Clark said he enjoyed the sound and feeling of bones breaking at his whim. He said he'd done something like this before and described how much he loved it.
In between his attacks on Thad, Clark feigned friendship. During this downtime, Clark would carry the boy to the couch so that the pair could watch movies together. Reportedly, he would talk as if nothing was wrong.
Clark spoke about his family, his car, how he lived with his brother in his filthy house, and his girlfriend - who, at one point, was at the front door with Clark while Thad laid half-conscious on the ground.