John Wiley was 6 years old when he stood helplessly on a California street, on his way to buy an ice cream, when an out-of-control pickup truck slammed into his grandmother and dragged her mangled body down the street.
The loving woman had taken the boy into her California home when he was only 4, believing that her son — Clark Wiley, a demanding taskmaster of a father — was an unstable parent.
Two of John's older siblings had died mysteriously as infants: a 2-month-old sister died after her cries prompted Clark to wrap her in a receiving blanket and leave her in a bureau drawer in the garage. And a brother died shortly after birth.
John's life was spared by the hit-and-run driver in 1958, but the event condemned him back to the home of abusive parents — a nearly blind, mentally ill mother and tyrannical father, who in 1970 would be charged in one of the most horrific cases of child abuse in modern history. He has spent most of the rest of his life estranged from his family, with little support to heal the scars of his childhood.
"I was left out in left field and no one came to my rescue," Wiley, now 56 and living a modest life as a house painter in Ohio, told ABCNEWS.com in his first-ever interview about a life spent recovering from the tragedy.
"I am a living dead man."
John is the brother of "Genie," a pseudonym for the toddler whom Clark Wiley forced into a handmade straitjacket and strapped her by day to a potty seat and by night in a metal-covered crib. She lived this way, under John's nose, with no exposure to the outside world, for nearly 11 years.
The Wileys' case has striking similarities to the horror unfolding in Austria, where a Nazi-like father locked his daughter in a sunless basement for 24 years, and she bore him seven children through incest, three of whom were forced to live with her in the underground enclosure before being freed late last month.
Like Genie, two of the youngest children emerged physically hunched and grunting in animal noises rather than speaking after years in isolation.
After Genie's release at the age of 13, she was studied by a team of well-financed researchers and captured the world's attention, becoming known as a modern "wild child." Her tragic story and her therapy spawned a litany of press coverage, academic articles, books and documentaries.
But in the swell of publicity about Genie, John, who witnessed his younger sister's abuse and also suffered at the hands of their sadistic father, has never received a minute of treatment or public attention in the nearly 40 years since.
John last saw his sister in 1982, and his mother died in 2003. Since then, he has shunned almost any association or documentation of his past.
Speaking in hushed, often expressionless tones, he detailed a life spent struggling through alcohol abuse, divorce and estrangement from his own daughter. Disconnected from his family, but unable to escape the past.
"I have forgiven, but I can't forget."
According to Dr. Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, boys like John fare worse than girls when deprived of a loving home.
"Boys suffer more than girls and have more mental health problems," Nelson wrote in a 2000 study on orphans. Other studies show that, in cases like the Wileys', "attachment is completely clobbered," he said.