PARENTS GET 15 YEARS IN ABUSE-STARVATION CASE

Date: 2005-09-15

Associated Press
The Miami Herald

A couple pleaded no contest Wednesday to torturing and starving five of their seven children, including yanking out their toenails with pliers, and were sentenced to 15 years each in prison.

"In your situation, you must suffer," Circuit Judge Richard Howard told John and Linda Dollar.

The couple's plea to five counts of aggravated child abuse avoids a scheduled Oct. 31 trial and saves the children, who were adopted, from an on-camera deposition documenting their misery.

The Inverness couple also tortured the children, ages 12 to 17, with an electric cattle prod and bondage equipment.

Dressed in red jumpsuits and chained at the waist, the Dollars admitted they let the situation get out of hand. The family lived in a secluded home and the children were home schooled, so no outsiders knew their conditions.

"It was not intentional that they be harmed in any way," John Dollar said. "They were not responsible. We love them, wish them well."

He then started to cry.

The Dollars also must undergo mental health evaluations and anger management courses, and terminate all parental rights.

Prosecutor Richard Buxman and Lisa Hernando, a state attorney's supervisor, said the plea agreement was reached partly because further criminal proceedings and the need to testify in court would be harmful to the children. None of the children were at the hearing.

The five abused children were so severely underfed that twin 14-year-old brothers weighed just 36 and 38 pounds each - about 80 pounds below normal.

The allegations surfaced Jan. 21 when the couple's 16-year-old son was admitted to a hospital with a head wound and red marks on his neck. He weighed less than 60 pounds.

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