Scranton police said they are searching for a city couple after a diaper-clad 7-year-old boy told officers harrowing stories of abuse last week when they found him in a dark, bug-infested basement.

"Are you here to help me?" the frightened child said as he hugged one officer who entered the 823 Raines St. home on Sept. 26, according to an affidavit filed Friday.

"I am hungry and I didn't get dinner yet," he reportedly told another officer who asked why he was crying.

According to the affidavit, the child said he had been locked in a coffin in the basement and also duct-taped to a chair in the home, which has been condemned by the city.

Felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful restraint were filed Friday against Lori Gardner, 26, and Brian Sleboda, 31, both of 823 Raines St.

City police were still searching for the pair Monday night, Chief Dan Duffy confirmed.

"It's a very sad case," Chief Duffy said. "That's pretty much all I can say."

Police said the boy told them the couple put him in the home's basement "often" to punish him, and told him ghosts lived there. They would even "pick up chains and drop them to scare him," arrest papers said.

According to the criminal complaint filed by Detective Vincent Uher on Friday, the child led investigators to the basement coffin, telling them Mr. Sleboda "put him in there" last Monday and locked it.

He was able to break out by pushing on it, the boy told investigators, but sometimes Mr. Sleboda used duct tape to bind the coffin shut.

The basement was nearly pitch black, illuminated only by a "Camel Exotic Blends" sign hung on a wall. In one corner, flies and ticks swarmed around a broken toilet.

Neighbors heard the child crying Sept. 26 and called police.

Seven neighbors in the immediate area around the home declined to comment to The Times-Tribune when approached Monday.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Sleboda was inside the home when police arrived, standing in the kitchen. Ms. Gardner came home while police were searching the property.

Police said Ms. Gardner denied the child was locked in the basement but said he was put there to punish him. She allegedly admitted to duct-taping his arms and hands but stated "they were merely playing a game."

The affidavit contains no statements from Mr. Sleboda.

Mark Seitzinger, city director of licensing, inspections and permits, said the home was infested with bugs and had electrical issues.

"We condemned it (as) unsafe for human habitation," Mr. Seitzinger said. "It was awful."

There also was evidence that there had been a fire inside.

"The whole basement - all the supports and cross beams were burned out," Mr. Seitzinger said.

Anyone with information about the parents' whereabouts is asked to contact the city detective bureau at 348-4139.