Details released in Dollar abuse case

Date: 2005-03-11

ABBIE VANSICKLE
St. Petersburg Times
March 11, 2005

A Citrus County couple accused of torturing five adopted children refused to let some of the children sleep in beds for as long as three years, one of the adopted sons told investigators.

The children said some of them slept on closet and bathroom floors and underneath their parents' bed in an RV.

The latest allegations against John and Linda Dollar come in information released Thursday by the State Attorney's Office.

The children also accused the couple, who face multiple counts of aggravated child abuse and torture, of holding them under water as punishment.

Another allegation accused the Dollars of wrapping chains around the children's bellies and holding the children aloft by the chains, also as punishment for bad behavior.

At Christmas, two of the children opened games and clothes while the other five were given rice, the allegations said.

Five of the children often went hungry, they said, and hid food around the house. They described getting in trouble after hiding bread in an attic.

The Department of Children and Families began investigating the Dollars in late January, after a 16-year-old boy was taken to the hospital with head wounds. The boy told investigators he was injured while running away from John Dollar, who was angry the boy had taken a trail mix bar.

Shortly after the investigation began, the couple left their home in a subdivision in central Citrus County.

When authorities found the Dollars days later in southeastern Utah, they were carrying a shotgun and a revolver, which John Dollar kept within reach of the driver's seat, according to Utah authorities.

John Dollar told authorities he had done appraisal work in Salt Lake City and liked the mountains. He wanted to go to Salt Lake to "clear his head," he told Lt. Alan Freestone of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office in Utah.

Much of the abuse detailed by the children occurred in the families' former addresses in Hillsborough County and in Knox and Sevier counties, both in Tennessee, according to investigators' interviews with the children.

Three of the children - a 17-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and Shanda Rae Shelton, now 25 - were not abused like the others, the children told investigators. Instead, they were allowed sweets and other special privileges.

After the DCF investigation began, the Dollars twice called Shelton to apologize for their behavior and to say they hoped they would be forgiven for what they had done, according to investigators.

Shelton says she participated in locking the children in closets, but insists some of the events have been mischaracterized by investigators, including the water incidents. One child was held underwater against her will as part of a strict swimming lesson, Shelton told Circuit Judge Ric Howard at a recent hearing. Shelton petitioned for visitation with her siblings, but her request was denied.

The Dollars are scheduled to appear in court at 4 p.m. March 15.

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