Dollars talk with Indiana newspaper

Date: 2005-04-13

ABBIE VANSICKLE
St. Petersburg Times

John and Linda Dollar were stunned at the accusations they starved and tortured their children, they told a reporter from Mrs. Dollar's Indiana hometown in their first public interview since their arrest.

The Dollars, who became the focus of national attention after law enforcement accused them of heinous acts against five of their eight adopted children, gave an interview to a newspaper editor from Versailles, Ind.

In a story published March 22 in the Osgood Journal, the couple told the editor, Wanda English Burnett, they knew of the investigation into their treatment of the children but never dreamed they would be charged with aggravated child abuse and torture.

The newspaper is published in Ripley County, Ind., where Mrs. Dollar grew up and attended high school.

Burnett interviewed the couple while she was vacationing in Florida, according to the story. She wrote that Elizabeth Osmond, a local lawyer and an assistant public defender, was present during the interview and plans to write a story about the couple for the Citrus County Chronicle. Osmond does not represent the Dollars.

Information about the Osgood Journal story, and Osmond's future story, came out Tuesday in documents that the State Attorney's Office released. It was the third set of documents prosecutors have released since the couple's arrest in February.

The Dollars each face five counts of aggravated child abuse and torture. They have pleaded not guilty and await trial at the Citrus County jail, where they are held without bail.

The investigation began in late January after the Dollars' 16-year-old son was taken to a local hospital with a head wound. The children were removed from the Dollars' care, and the couple were arrested several days later in Utah.

The Dollars have been "disappointed with media coverage of their case," according to Burnett's story, and wanted to talk with a reporter about their lives before the allegations of torture emerged.

The article focused mostly on the Dollars' childhoods. Both grew up in hard-working farm families, they said, and had parents who expected a lot from them.

Mrs. Dollar, who was raised by her father, left home at 16 to live with one of her sisters, she told Burnett. Although Mrs. Dollar told Hillsborough County social service workers her father was abusive, she denied the abuse in the story, saying he just expected her to work hard.

She went on to get a bachelor's and master's degrees in business education from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and said she had never been in trouble before Citrus County social service workers began their investigation in late January.

Part of the story is devoted to John Dollar and includes similar information, including his family life on a Tennessee farm and a list of his educational credentials.

The couple also listed their church participation, including a private Christian school they operated for about a year in a rural area near Knoxville, Tenn.

In the story, they do not explain what happened in their home in the last couple of years or address the specifics of the allegations against them, which include shocking their children with a cattle prod, locking them in a closet overnight and pulling out their toenails with pliers.

Also in the document stack released Tuesday were letters John and Linda Dollar wrote each other while in jail. They professed their love for each other and discussed how their Christian faith was sustaining them during this difficult time.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansickle@sptimes.com.

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