This story was co-published with Slate.
In the fall of 2003, police in New Jersey received a call from a concerned neighbor who'd found a boy rummaging in her garbage, looking for food. He was 19 years old but was 4 feet tall and weighed just 45 pounds. Investigators soon learned that the boy's three younger brothers were also severely malnourished.
The family was known to social workers, but the children were being homeschooled and thus were cut off from the one place where their condition could have gotten daily scrutiny - a classroom.