Dollars' calls, letters released

Date: 2005-04-06

ABBIE VANSICKLE
St. Petersburg Times

The day after social service workers removed John and Linda Dollar's seven adopted children from their home, the Citrus County couple left messages on their oldest daughter's phone, begging forgiveness.

"Dad and I won't be here after today," Mrs. Dollar said in one message. "We just wanted to let you know that we love you. Please tell the other kids don't blame themselves.

"What we done (sic) must have been really horrible. We didn't think so. We had good intentions but we took the wrong measures. We love you. I'll always love you, Shanda. The will is in my box by my bed. Love you."

The Dollars didn't tell their oldest daughter, Shanda Rae Shelton, or investigators they were headed to Utah. When the couple missed a Jan. 31 court hearing, Citrus officials launched a nationwide search.

The Dollars now are at the Citrus County jail, accused of shocking the children with a cattle prod, forcing them to sleep in a closet, starving them and pulling out their toenails with pliers, among other abuse.

They have pleaded not guilty to aggravated child abuse and torture and are being held without bail.

Transcripts of the phone messages were among hundreds of pages of documents prosecutors released Tuesday.

The Dollars have yet to speak publicly about the case. But the documents, which also include letters written by the Dollars in jail, provide insight into the couple's life.

John Dollar, 59, also left a phone message for Shelton and her husband, Eric.

"Uh, I am sorry things have turned out the way they have. I am sorry that you all have had to face this music. Uh, Shanda, I've always loved you and I love you still and I hope you see in your heart to forgive me."

Since they were booked into the jail Feb. 19, the Dollars have written several letters to each other and to family members.

The letters are filled with Bible verses and religious poetry. But the Dollars also repeatedly told each other and family members that they wish the public understood their version of events.

"You know how hard John and I tried to be good parents," Mrs. Dollar wrote in one letter to her mother-in-law, Pauline, who lived with the family in Citrus.

"You know how much food I cooked, clothes I washed and all the material things we provided for the children. You know how much we loved and cared for them."

At the end of the letter, Mrs. Dollar begged for her mother-in-law's help.

"Please forgive. You know I tried hard, Mom," she wrote. "Please step up to the plate and let people know we didn't abuse the children day in and day out."

In a birthday card to his wife, John Dollar seemed hopeful.

"Through the grace of God, we'll beat this problem and share next year's birthday at home together. I am filled with the Lord's spirit that he will use this to his benefit!"

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