Duo's Alleged Torture Tools Seized

Date: 2005-02-09

ITEMS IN CITRUS ABUSE CASE INCLUDE PLIERS, BELT, CANE

ANTHONY McCARTNEY
The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA — Tools and other items seized from the Citrus County home of John and Linda Dollar may fuel an investigation into whether five of their adopted children were abused in Hillsborough County, officials said Tuesday.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office detectives served a search warrant and retrieved 10 items from the couple's Beverly Hills home Friday, according to documents released Tuesday.

Using information from the children, detectives searched drawers, a closet and under a bed to find these items:

* A size 46 snakeskin belt, in the master bathroom;

* A wooden cane, under the bed in the master bedroom;

* A pair of needle-nose pliers, in a kitchen drawer;

* A rubber mallet, in the laundry room;

* An electric prod, labeled "for livestock use only," in a drawer in the master bedroom;

* A red vice grip, from a shed;

* And a Noah's Ark wind chime and three schoolbooks, in the master bedroom closet.

Citrus County sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said detectives think many of the items were used to torture the children when they lived in Tennessee and Hillsborough, but not since the couple moved to Beverly Hills in August.

The family had lived in various homes in Hillsborough for five years and before that in Tennessee for five years, Tierney said.

While living in those areas, the children told detectives, John and Linda Dollar used pliers to rip off their toenails and fingernails and vice grips to bind their feet while shocking them with the electric prod, the search warrant affidavit states.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said detectives are looking into the allegations.

The abuse in Citrus County mainly involved sleep and food, the warrant states. Authorities said three boys, one age 16 and 14-year-old twins, were severely malnourished.

Each of the five children had to ask for permission to eat, the affidavit states. If granted permission, they were fed small portions of rice, beans and potatoes.

Meals were withheld from the twins for two days at a time when food was found missing, they told detectives.

An investigation into the Dollars' treatment of the children began after the 16-year-old boy was taken to a hospital emergency room Jan. 21 with serious injuries.

Detectives suspect John Dollar picked up the 16-year-old by the neck Jan. 20 and dropped him on a fireplace.

The Dollars were arrested last week in Utah, and each was charged with one felony count of aggravated child abuse involving all five children. The couple likely will be returned to Florida within 15 days, Tierney said.

Seven children lived with the Dollars, but two apparently were spared the torture, authorities have said. All seven corroborated the abuse, the affidavit states.

For punishment, the five children were forced to sleep in the master bedroom closet, with a wind chime on the door to alert the Dollars if anyone tried to leave, the affidavit states.

Despite accounts that the children were home schooled, they were not registered with school districts in Hillsborough or Citrus, Tierney said.

Hillsborough schools spokesman Mark Hart said parents have to file a letter of intent to home school children, show officials work the children have completed and submit them for testing or review annually.

All seven children are in protective custody.

Reporter Anthony McCartney can be reached at (813) 259-7616.

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