'Sick to my stomach': Mom fights for son after his adopted parents are accused of starving, zip tying him

Shelly Green says she has lived four blocks from her son for the past decade, but had no idea he was allegedly being abused by his adopted parents.


An Iowa couple accused of zip tying and starving their adopted son with special needs will appear in court later this week.

Jennifer and Richard Ryan are charged with first degree kidnapping and neglect of a dependent person.

Court documents state the couple tied the 16-year-old to his bed frame for months and deprived him of meals. He weighed 78 pounds, according to the documents.

An anonymous person called the Iowa Department of Human Services after noticing the teen zip tied to a chair at Jennifer Ryan's work, an automotive shop in Pleasant Hill, Iowa.

The teenager's biological mother is now fighting to get him back. Shelly Green says she lost custody of her son in 2012 because she was abusing alcohol and living in poor conditions.

"We were living on space heaters. I couldn't afford propane at the time," said Green.

Green says she is ten years sober and thinks about her son every day.

"I feel sick to my stomach ever since I heard the news and read what they have done to him," said Green.

At age seven, Green's son was placed into foster care at the Ryans' home. The Des Moines couple ended up adopting him in 2012.

"I haven't seen my son in over 10 years and come to find out he has been abused this whole entire time," said Green.

Green says she lived just four blocks from her son the last decade, but wasn't allowed to see him. She said the Ryans originally promised she could maintain a relationship with her son.

"If I would have ever known something like this was happening to him I would have done something a lot sooner," said Green.

Green has two other daughters. They were adopted by their paternal grandmother, Julie Reben in 2012. Reben says at the time she tried to adopt the boy, too.

"I fought for all three. They wouldn't let me have him because I wasn't his biological grandmother, but I have been his grandma since the day he was born. He called me grandma," said Reben.

Reben says she and Green have contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services to try to start the process of adopting the 16-year-old.

"I know he is going to be traumatized, and I know the pain isn't going to go away on its own, but with our love I know this will work," said Green.