Neighbors Shocked By Reports Of Neglect

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Date: 2005-03-09
Source: news4jax.com

Neighbors Shocked By Reports Of Neglect

POSTED: 3:53 pm EST March 9, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Neighbors on the quiet street where Wilson and Brenda Sullivan live thought of the couple as friendly, the kind of people who would wave when they saw you in the yard or bring over cookies.

They were shocked to learn that the Sullivans had been arrested after their 17-year-old adopted son was discovered in the house weighing 49 pounds and standing 4-foot, 6-inches tall. Officials say he was forced to sleep in a cage-like bed and that he suffers from psychosocial dwarfism -- a lack of physical and emotional growth caused by abuse.

Like several other neighbors interviewed Wednesday, Summer Howell doesn't remember seeing the boy. She has lived next door to the Sullivans since they moved to the neighborhood in October.

"It does comes as a shock. I hope it turns out to be false. They seemed to be very nice," she said Wednesday. "They even brought over cookies at Christmastime."

Duval County Judge Brent Shore ordered the Sullivans each held on $200,003 bond Wednesday on a charge of felony child neglect.

The police report states that their son, whose name was not released, suffered from starvation and psychosocial dwarfism -- a lack of physical and emotional growth caused by abuse.

The parents' attorney, Lee Lockett, said the couple may not be responsible for the boy's condition.

"Just because a child is alleged to have a certain condition doesn't mean his parents are responsible for it," Lockett said.

Adam Goodflower, 21, who lives across the street from the Sullivans, said that when he saw family out in his yard, they would wave to him.

"It's crazy. It's a crazy world," he said. "I can't think of anyone doing something like that," he said, when told of the accusations.

Wilson Sullivan's sister, Ordrianne Sullivan, moved to Jacksonville a week ago from Akron, Ohio, to help her brother and sister-in-law through what she called "blatantly wrong accusations."

"They're painting a picture of my family as monsters, and they're not, they truly are not," she said.

"I adamantly disagree with these charges. They are not that type of people. There has been a great injustice here. I'm hurting for my family," she said.

The family moved to Florida from Ohio, she said, to be close to their oldest son who was stationed here in the Navy. She said the Sullivans have had six foster children and one biological child.

Child welfare workers called to the Sullivan's home Jan. 10 from a tip to the child abuse hot line found the teen wearing a diaper and appearing developmentally delayed, a police report said. The boy was in the weight range of a 6½-year-old, officials said.

Chief Steve Weintraub of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the parents told investigators that the boy was forced to sleep in a criblike cage with a wooden lid kept shut with chains and a lock because he had behavioral problems and was overeating at night. The crib was the size of a twin bed with locks that prevented its sides from being lowered.

The teen, two adopted 10-year-olds twins with physical or mental disabilities, and two other children were taken from the home and placed in protective custody. DCF officials said while only three of the children showed any signs of neglect, they were all removed as a precaution.

Channel 4's Jennifer Bauer learned that Brenda Sullivan adopted the 17-year-old and two 10-year-olds before she married Wilson Sullivan.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, children with psychosocial dwarfism "tend to be withdrawn and apathetic. They have disrupted sleep and bizarre eating and drinking habits. All of these symptoms are dramatically reversed when the child is removed to compassionate care."

The 17-year-old has gained 27 pounds and grown a half-inch in two months.

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