The 12-year-old boy was first sheltered by the friend's family, The Wilmington News Journal reported. Doctors at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children said he is about 20 pounds underweight.
Robert J. Hohn III, 41, and his wife Shannon Watterson, 39, who live in the Newark area, are to be charged with first-degree child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, Cpl. John Weglarz Sr. of the New Castle County Police said.
Melissa Ferraro-Walsh, who lives about a mile from Hohn and Watterson, said the boy knocked on the door Tuesday night and asked if her stepson lived there.
"He didn't have shoes and socks on, and he was barely wearing a coat. When he stepped into the light, we saw he had bruises all over his face," she said.
When a woman in a car drove by looking for the boy, Ferraro-Walsh said she told her she had not seen him and then offered to call her if he did come by. Instead, she called police.
Investigators say the parents pulled the 12-year-old out of school this year, allegedly because of disciplinary problems, and kept him locked in a bedroom. Their other three children continued to attend school.