Dollars surrender their parental rights

Date: 2005-06-07

JORGE SANCHEZ
St. Petersburg Times

John and Linda Dollar, the couple accused of torturing and starving some of their children, agreed to terminate their parental rights Friday.

Separately, a judge on Monday agreed that the Dollars would stand trial together on the felony charges of child abuse.

John Dollar, 59, and his 52-year-old wife, Linda, are scheduled to stand trial Oct. 31. Each faces five counts of aggravated child abuse.

The couple's latest round of court appearances began Friday, during a daylong session in Family Court before Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola, said the couple's attorney, Charles Vaughn.

"Basically, they agreed to give up custody of all their children," Vaughn said. "It was deemed in the best interest of the children. It really doesn't even play into their criminal case at all."

The Dollars came under investigation in late January after their 16-year-old son was taken to a local hospital with a head wound.

When the Dollars failed to show up at a Jan. 31 hearing about the welfare and custody of their children, law enforcement officials started a nationwide manhunt. The Dollars were arrested Feb. 4 in Utah.

During Monday's court appearance, the Dollars appeared before Circuit Judge Richard A. Howard. They wore orange jail uniforms, were confined with chains and accompanied by Vaughn.

Their lawyer said a round of depositions will start later this month and will include the children, who range in age from 12 to 17. They are in foster care.

The Dollars are accused of torturing and starving five of their seven children. Among the allegations are that they clamped pliers to their sons' fingers, tearing the skin off; that they beat them with thorny branches; and that they used a cattle prod to administer electric shocks.

In another development, the state released a report last week stating that DNA from one of the children was found on some items, including a pair of black pliers, that was taken from the Dollars' Pine Ridge home.

But "the fact that DNA was found on things in their home doesn't prove the state's case that they committed the acts they were charged with," Vaughn said. "It's not exactly a smoking gun."

Jorge Sanchez can be reached at 860-7313 or e-mail at sanchez@sptimes.com.

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