TORTURE SUSPECTS APPEAR IN COURT

Date: 2005-02-21

Associated Press
The Miami Herald

A Florida couple accused of starving and beating five of their adopted children were expected to be denied bail Sunday at their initial court appearance on aggravated child abuse charges, their lawyer said.

John and Linda Dollar were extradited from Utah and arrived at the Citrus County Jail Saturday night. Their court appearance was expected to be brief, and the couple's attorney, Charles Vaughn, said he did not think the request for bail would be granted.

Vaughn planned to make a statement following the hearing at the jail. By early Sunday afternoon, he had not yet conferred face to face with his clients since they were brought back to Florida.

More charges are pending against the couple, who were captured Feb. 4 in southeastern Utah. Authorities used the Dollars' cellphone records to track them down.

The adopted children who were allegedly abused painted a horrific picture for investigators, claiming they were starved, shocked with a cattle prod, beaten with a hammer and had toenails yanked out with pliers. Their emaciated bodies were compared by police to victims of Nazi concentration camps.

The couple fled Florida ahead of a hearing with the Department of Children & Families, which put the children, ages 12 to 17, in foster care after the allegations surfaced Jan. 21, when the Dollars' 16-year-old son - weighing less than 60 pounds - was taken to the hospital with a head wound and red marks on his neck.

Once, the couple was thought to be a model for adoptive parents. Well-educated and religious, the Dollars seemed to have the best of intentions in a 1995 state application to add three more children to their adoptive family.

``Adoption provided my wife and I the opportunity to extend our love to children we were not fortunate enough to have on our own,'' John Dollar said in the application. ``We both found God sending us children who needed us and we needed them.''

Since the allegations first came to light, investigators have found a cattle prod, a pair of pliers and what appear to be toenails in the home, which they say corroborate what the children told detectives.

State welfare workers stopped monitoring the Dollars after the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, the agency that preceded the DCF, determined the couple would make suitable parents.

In six months of home visits, background checks and interviews for the foster parent application, records show Linda Dollar revealed her own stories of abuse. She recounted being verbally and physically abused as a child and said her first marriage ended because her husband abused her, the documents said.

Caseworkers also had concerns the Dollars believed in spanking as a last-resort form of punishment. John Dollar had grown up on a farm where he said his father would spank the children.

But he softened the stance in writing: ``Never should a spanking physically harm or hurt a child. No other form of physical discipline is known to be acceptable by me.''

0

Pound Pup Legacy