Date: 2005-02-05

Associated Press
The Miami Herald

A Florida couple have been captured in Utah after being accused of starving five adopted children and yanking some of their toenails out with pliers, officials said Friday.

John and Linda Dollar were picked up by two deputies around 7:30 p.m. south of Blanding in southeastern Utah, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department. They were being held in the county jail on Florida warrants of felony aggravated child abuse.

The couple were easily tracked because they used their cellphones in Utah, Citrus County sheriff's Capt. Jim Cernich said.


The Dollar family included seven adopted children between the ages of 12 and 17. Five of the children have told investigators they were tortured by the couple, subjected to electric shocks, beatings with hammers and having their toenails yanked out with pliers.

Deputies who raided their Central Florida home Friday found an electric cattle prod, sticks, belts and a vise that were allegedly used in the torture, Cernich said. Authorities said the abused five had physical injuries supporting their claims and were so severely malnourished that they weighed no more than elementary school children.

Citrus sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said one 14-year-old twin weighed 36 pounds and the other 38 pounds.

If the allegations are true, Linda Dollar may have been

acting on an abusive past. She wrote in a Department of Children & Families application in 1995 that she left home at age 16 because of her alcoholic father, who was "verbally and physically (not sexually) abusive." She also wrote that her first marriage ended because of "abuse." She gave no other details.

The comments were included in 164 pages of documents from when the Dollars applied to become foster parents in 1995 that the department released Friday.

The family had lived in Beverly Hills, about 85 miles north of Tampa, since August. John Dollar, 58, is a commercial real estate appraiser and his 51-year-old wife taught the children at home. The Dollars' large gray stucco home is surrounded by a thick pine forest on three sides. They bought the 3,800-square-foot home with a pool, spa and a three-car garage in July for $275,000.

"This is an area that you just wouldn't expect something like this to happen. You just don't hear of things like this here," said Nancy Reyes, 64, who lives in the exclusive subdivision called Ridge Estates.

DCF began investigating the couple when a 16-year-old boy living in their home was rushed to the hospital on Jan. 21 with severe injuries after one of the other children called for an ambulance. The family included three girls, ages 12, 13 and 17; three 14-year-old boys, two of them twins, and the 16-year-old boy.

The five spoke of being forced to sleep in a closet in the Dollars' bedroom because the couple accused them of stealing food and misbehaving, Tierney said.


The other two children were favored by the Dollars and were not injured, Tierney said. All seven are in the custody of the Department of Children & Families.

"They are safe and they are doing as well as can be expected given the circumstances," said DCF spokesman Bill D'Aiuto.

The children are not the Dollars' biological children, Florida officials said, declining to explain the nature of their relationship, citing the privacy concerns.

DCF officials said the Dollars had been licensed as foster parents in Hillsborough County from March 1995 to October 1995. Documents show the family was no longer in Florida's foster care system when they moved out of the state.


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