Woman accused of years-long abuse of adopted teen

Date: 2009-02-12

SPRING HILL — The 16-year-old boy said she ordered him to strip naked, then bound his hands with packing tape and beat him relentlessly.

Then, authorities allege, his adoptive mother locked him in a bathroom and cut the power, leaving him bloodied, broken and bruised as she left the house.

The beating Sunday was just the latest in a three-year pattern of savagery that happened inside the home in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Hernando County, authorities said.

"This was just an abomination," a visibly upset Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent said of the case.

Authorities on Tuesday night arrested Tai-Ling Gigliotti, 50, on charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment after the boy escaped his bathroom prison and sought refuge at a neighbor's home. Gigliotti was released from jail Wednesday on a $15,000 bond.

Gigliotti adopted the boy from her sister, who lives in Taiwan, and brought him to the United States when he was 4, authorities said.

She moved to Spring Hill after her husband, internationally known classical musician Anthony Gigliotti, died in 2001.

Anthony was the principal clarinetist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Tai-Ling was his student. They married after he divorced his first wife in 1986, said Roger McKinney, a former student and family friend. The boy referred to Anthony as his stepfather.

Nugent said he had spoken with the teen, and investigators are piecing together the pattern of abuse that the victim told them began years ago.

The teen, who is in state custody, told deputies that he had not slept in a bed for more than three years. He said his adoptive mother made him sleep in the hallway until 15 months ago, when she began to lock him in the bathroom at night and when she went to work.

She owns the Gigliotti Music shop in Brooksville. Property records show she bought the home at 13115 Whitmarsh St. in 2004.

Gigliotti initially let the boy take a clarinet into the bathroom but later took it away. He managed to keep a metal piece from the instrument that he used more than once to escape through a barricaded window.

But when he did get away, authorities say, he did not go for help. Rather, he slipped into the family's garage, where he listened to classical music inside a parked Mercedes.

When Gigliotti discovered that he had escaped, he told investigators, she screwed a sheet of plywood into the metal window frame from the outside.

Nugent explained that Gigliotti told the boy that if he went to the police he would be deported. The boy also didn't report the abuse, the sheriff said, because he said the family's Taiwanese culture required absolute submission to elders.

The suggestion that culture could be to blame didn't sit well with Shelly Ringger, a Davidson College professor who specializes in Taiwanese culture.

"This story steps very far over that line," she said. "It would be every bit as scandalous and horrifying in Taiwan as it is in Florida."

The boy told authorities the beatings increased in frequency and severity in recent weeks. They culminated Sunday when she beat him with a 3-foot-long, inch-thick block of wood and a metal-tipped water hose, sheriff's reports state.

The assault broke his right forearm and cut and bruised him on nearly every part of his body. The sheriff said the lacerations on the boy's buttocks were so bad that "there was no way this young man could even sit down." Medical workers also found scars from previous beatings on his body.

The teen waited until Gigliotti left Monday to make his last escape. This time, he put on clothes and ran to a neighbor's, who called police about 3 p.m.

Authorities searched the home and found a blood-stained stick and hose like the boy described. They also overheard Gigliotti tell someone on a cell phone that "he must have gotten out of the room," arrest reports state.

Investigators said the boy told them he attended Powell Middle School two years ago, but Hernando County school officials said Wednesday that they have no record of his attendance.

State Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said the teen is in temporary foster care.

"This case is awful," she said. "The most important thing now is making sure this young man is okay physically and emotionally, and quickly identifying everything he needs."

Neighbors described the boy as a tall and slender but not malnourished. Authorities did say Gigliotti withheld or limited food as part of her discipline.

Gigliotti, who has no known criminal record, refused to speak to authorities. Calls to her attorney Wednesday were not returned.

The Sheriff's Office also is looking into the involvement of 45-year-old Angelo Anton, a real estate agent and owner of 1-Stop Clarinet & Sax Shop in Spring Hill. He also lives at the Gigliotti home and sometimes goes by the name Anton Churmanteyev.

"I can't imagine this guy not knowing what went on there," Nugent said.

James Johnson, who lives across the street from Gigliotti's home, said he was surprised to hear of her arrest.

"She was always nice to me — talked to me a lot," Johnson said.

Neighbor Murray Guttman said the boy appeared very obedient, "almost to the point of being trained."

"Nothing else mattered more to him than to satisfy them, it seemed," he added.

Times staff writers Greg Hamilton, Tom Marshall and Drew Harwell and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.


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