DNA From Torture Matches Children's

Date: 2005-06-07

ACCUSED COUPLE TO HAVE SINGLE TRIAL

JIM TUNSTALL
The Tampa Tribune

INVERNESS — Bloodstains, fingernails and residue on pliers found in the house and motor home of John and Linda Dollar match the DNA of at least three of their adopted children, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report states.

There may be a link to a fourth child because two of the youngsters are twins and share the same genetic fingerprint.

Samples taken from a cattle prod, mallet and cane, also seized with search warrants, did not yield conclusive matches, the report states.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office investigators say John Dollar, 59, and his 52-year-old wife used the items to torture five of their eight children over a period of several years, including shocking them with the prod and pulling out fingernails with pliers.

The DNA match "doesn't prove anything, just that they were in the house," the couple's attorney, Charlie Vaughan, of Inverness, said Monday.

The Dollars both are charged with five counts of aggravated child abuse. Each charge carries a 30-year maximum sentence.

Vaughan earlier said his clients were overwhelmed by adopting eight children, some of whom have special needs and came from dysfunctional families.

Also Monday, after Vaughan agreed, a judge granted the prosecution's request to try the couple together. Their trial is set for Oct. 27. Vaughan is expected to seek a change of venue that could move the case out of Citrus County.

The Dollars were arrested Feb. 4 in Utah, two weeks after their 16-year-old son was taken to a Crystal River emergency room with head and neck injuries. He weighed 59 pounds; two siblings, both age 14, weighed less than 40 pounds each.

Seven of their children are minors. They have been placed in state custody. An adult child, Shanda Rae Shelton, of New Port Richey, unsuccessfully sought to visit some of them.

The Dollars have terminated their parental rights, according to court statements Monday.

When interviewed by a detective, one of the 14-year-olds said he and some of his siblings were chained and sometimes hung off the ground until they passed out.

The alleged physical abuse ended last summer after John Dollar's elderly mother moved in with the family, investigators have said, adding that the children continued to be deprived of food and sleep.

Authorities say the abuses escaped detection until early this year because the family moved frequently, living full or part time in Hillsborough and Polk counties as well as Tennessee before moving to Citrus County in August.

The Dollars have pleaded not guilty and are being held at Citrus County jail without bail.

Reporter Jim Tunstall can be reached at (352) 628-5558.

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