Follow-Up: Interview With Dollars' Daughter Shanda Rae Shelton, Attorneys Bill Grant, Bo Samargya

Date: 2005-02-18

THE O'REILLY FACTOR,
FOX News Channel

O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.

In "The Factor" "Follow-Up" Segment tonight, we're following a terrible child abuse case in Florida where John and Linda Dollar are accused of abusing five of their seven adopted children. The allegations involve torture and starvation.

Another adopted daughter, 25-year-old Shanda Rae Shelton, who is married now with a baby, wants custody of all the children involved. Florida authorities are preventing that saying Shelton knew of the abuse and participated in some of it while she was living in the home.

Joining us now from Tampa are Ms. Shelton and her attorneys Bill Grant and Bo Samargya.

All right, Ms. Shelton. We'll begin with you. You were adopted at age 4 months in Indiana and then stayed with these people until you were how old, Madam?

SHANDA SHELTON, DOLLARS' ADOPTED CHILD: Twenty-two.

O'REILLY: All right. So you were there 22 years. What was life like inside that home?

SHELTON: For a while, it was all right, and, slowly, things started going downhill. Linda, especially, and John, too, were both controlling people. The -- we were -- all of us were very socially isolated from the outside world. We had very little contact with anyone.

As I've said before, things -- after I confronted Linda about some of the things that were going on in the home, the situation got a lot better, and, by the time I left, there was no more abuse going on there.

O'REILLY: And that was three years ago. But did they beat you? Did they use -- what did they do to you and your brothers and sisters?

SHELTON: For me mostly, it -- there was a lot of mind control. There was the threat of worse punishments. I did receive, you know, spanks with a belt. But, you know, it was -- I hadn't -- it was nothing compared to what the allegations are now.

O'REILLY: What about when you were in the home? Did the other children get beaten? Did they get starved? And those -- these are the allegations today. Did that happen?

SHELTON: They weren't starved, no. There were times when they were locked up. They were not severely beaten.

O'REILLY: When you say locked up, what does that mean?

SHELTON: They would be locked either in a room or in a large closet.

O'REILLY: All right. So the Florida authority say that you participated in locking them up sometimes and that you actually submerged them in water on occasion. Is that true?

SHELTON: Under force of threat, the threat of violence, the threat of being kicked out on the street penniless with -- you know, and I knew no one and nowhere to go. Yes, there were things I was forced to do, including locking them up in the room.

The incident with the water occurred -- one of the children was wearing a life jacket. She was afraid of the water. Linda told me pull her under, show her she's going to pop right back up, so she's not afraid anymore.

O'REILLY: Now was there a climate of general terror in the house? I mean, here we have eight children, including you, adopted, all of them. Was there a climate of terror and fear in that house, Madam?

SHELTON: I would say so. I was definitely afraid. I was very afraid when I lived there.

O'REILLY: Did you report that to the authorities?

SHELTON: No, because of -- because of the fear. I was told that...

O'REILLY: No, but when you got to be 20, 21 years old, I mean, obviously, you could have done it then, could you have not?

SHELTON: Well, as I said, when I left the house -- there was nothing going on out of the ordinary when I left the house, other than the kids were still sort of socially isolated.

O'REILLY: OK, but what...

SHELTON: But aside from that...

O'REILLY: My point is this. You're 21 years old. You've gone through a horrific childhood. It doesn't sound like this is the Brady brunch in there. You know what I'm talking about?

SHELTON: Yes.

O'REILLY: You talk about mind control, psychological, emotional deprivation, kids being locked away, and you never thought that, gee, maybe, you know, I should tip the authorities off that isn't Mom and Dad of the year? You know, once you reach adulthood...

BILL GRANT, SHANDA RAE SHELTON'S ATTORNEY: Well, now, Bill...

O'REILLY: Go ahead, counselor. Go ahead.

GRANT: When my client advised the authorities in Tennessee, before they came to Hillsborough County, it got better, under a threat that she was going to contact HRS in Tennessee, and so...

O'REILLY: What year was that?

GRANT: ... it actually did get better because of her threat to them, and then it...

O'REILLY: All right. What year was that?

GRANT: That was...

SHELTON: Around 1996.

O'REILLY: OK.

GRANT: And then it got better when they moved here, and then, when she left the house, the torture began again.

O'REILLY: OK. So you're saying from 1996 until let's say about...

GRANT: She didn't leave the house in '96. She notified the Tennessee authorities in '96. She left the home in 2001.

O'REILLY: OK, but, surely, this is an itinerant couple who doesn't -- as Ms. Shelton rightly pointed out, there was no interaction with the children. The children stayed in the home. They didn't go to school. They were isolated from the real world. And I'm saying to myself, you know, these kids didn't really have anybody looking out for them.

So now you want to take all these kids, Ms. Shelton? Could you afford to raise them?

SHELTON: First and foremost, I want to see the kids. I just -- I want to talk to them. I want to visit with them. I want to comfort them because of all the people that have talked to them so far, nobody understands what they're going through except someone who's been there with them.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, why won't the Florida authorities, Counselor, let her see her brothers and sisters?

That's something, Bill...

O'REILLY: Yes. Why won't let Ms. Shelton see the brothers and sisters?

BO SAMARGYA, SHANDA RAE SHELTON'S ATTORNEY: We aren't quite sure. That's the whole issue. I mean, the brothers and sisters have been reaching out to her and are still in the process of...

O'REILLY: But you guys are attorneys. Can't you get a court order? I mean -- I mean, you're telling me that after two weeks, or whatever this has been going on, maybe three weeks, that you still don't know why the -- she can't see her brothers and sisters?

GRANT: Bill, with DCF and the culture of secrecy, we're fighting -- we're fighting an extremely well-funded arm of the state government of Florida. Billions of dollars go into the Department of Children and Families. We have filed a motion. We've been heard. They're noticing hearings without giving us proper notice, basically wanting ex parte.

Let me tell you something that happened on Wednesday. Tuesday, we had our hearing, and the judge said, well, right now, you can't visit, you can let another judge hear it later.

Well, Wednesday at 4:30, they had another hearing that was scheduled, and they didn't even notice us. They walk into the courtroom, and they see Bo Samargya and Bill Grant, and what do they say? Oh, who gave them notice?

We're attorneys of record, and they're not even giving us notice.

O'REILLY: All right. So you think that the state, Counselor, is behaving in a terrible way here. Is that what you think?

GRANT: Yes.

SAMARGYA: Yes.

O'REILLY: All right. Where are the parents now? Are they -- they got caught in Utah. Are they back in Florida now?

SAMARGYA: To our best knowledge, they aren't back yet, Bill. We think they're going to be back probably within the next couple of days, and then, at the next hearing where we ask for visitation in front of the normal family law judge, the Dollars will be there, and it will not be an emergency situation, and we will be heard on all issues.

O'REILLY: All right. And, in the meantime, the seven children...

GRANT: They're trying to sandbag us.

O'REILLY: The seven children remain in the state's custody, and Ms. Shelton wants to see them for possible oversight. All right. We'll continue to follow the --it's a very messed up situation.

GRANT: We'll be in touch with you, Bill.

O'REILLY: Yes. Just let us know how it goes on.

Ms. Shelton, we appreciate you coming on and talking to us about it.

SHELTON: Thank you.

O'REILLY: Coming right up, more controversy surrounding Howard Dean, the DNC and race. Right back with that.

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