Kids subjected to death camp-like abuse, charges say

Date: 2005-02-08

Lisa Church
The Salt Lake Tribune

A couple accused of torturing and starving five children waived extradition Monday and will be returned to Florida to face felony charges of aggravated child abuse in a case one police officer likened to a Nazi death camp.

"We'd just as soon go ahead and get back to get this over with," abuse suspect John Dollar told 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson during a brief hearing Monday in Monticello. Dollar, 58, and his wife, Linda Dollar, 51, who were handcuffed and shackled, spoke softly and frequently looked down as they answered Anderson's questions and then signed paperwork waiving extradition.

Florida authorities will take the Dollars, of Beverly Hills, Fla., into custody within six or seven days, said Florida assistant state attorney Rich Buxman. The authorities said the couple's $100,000 bail was revoked after they failed to show up for a Jan. 31 hearing on the charges and fled the state.

Aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony in Florida, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, Buxman said.

"They're not charged with your usual run-of-the-mill child abuse," Buxman said. "This is a severe case."

The five children, who range in age from 12 to 16, told investigators the Dollars beat them, pulled their toenails out with pliers and subjected them to electric shock. At least three were so severely malnourished that their growth may be permanently stunted, said Citrus County, Fla., Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Gail Tierney.

One of the couple's twin 14-year-old boys weighed just 38 pounds, and the other weighed 36 pounds, Tierney said. A 16-year-old boy weighed 59 pounds. The abuse was discovered Jan. 21 when the 16-year-old was taken to a hospital with what medical personnel deemed suspicious injuries to his head and neck.

"It was very disturbing to look at photographs. They were just skin and bones," Tierney said by phone Monday. "They looked like pictures you've seen of Auschwitz. I cannot recollect a more brutal case of child abuse than this one."

The children also told authorities that they were bound with chains or plastic ties, had their feet squeezed in a vice and were forced to sleep in a closet in the couple's bedroom. A wind chime attached to the door served as an alarm if they tried to get out. Physical examinations backed up their claims, Tierney said.

The five children said they were punished because they "stole food, told lies, and messed things up," Tierney said. Two other children, ages 14 and 17, were considered the couple's "favorites" and escaped the abuse, she said. All are in state custody in Florida.

The Dollars hid the alleged abuse by home-schooling their children and keeping them isolated, Tierney said.

The Dollars were arrested Saturday about eight miles south of Blanding after San Juan County sheriff's deputies recognized the couple's gold Lexus sport utility vehicle, Sheriff Mike Lacy said Monday.

The sheriff was notified Friday that the Dollars were in southeastern Utah after investigators tracked a call from their cell phone to a repeater tower on Navajo Mountain.

lchurch@citlink.net

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