Authorities look for couple's four sons
The boys' parents, accused of abuse and neglect, say the children aren't missing, but are merely on a fun trip with their sister.
By ROBERT KING
BROOKSVILLE - Authorities are searching for the four sons of Lori and Arthur Allain, the Hernando County couple accused of abuse and neglect in the case of a malnourished 10-year-old girl.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday issued a nationwide alert for the boys and said they may have been taken out of state by a sister.
The alert accused the sister, 21-year-old Kristen Staab, of evading a protective order that required her to deliver three of the boys to the Department of Children and Families for placement in foster care.
The order came after new allegations arose last week that children in the Allain house had been sexually abused.
During a court hearing Tuesday, the Allains' attorney, Jim Dysart, said it was misleading to describe the kids as missing.
Lori Allain said Staab took the boys on a weekend tubing trip early Saturday morning, a day before the protective order. Staab has left phone messages from the road but hasn't been reachable, she said.
"My daughter is not trying to hide the kids," Allain said.
But DCF attorney Michael Hopkins said Staab and the children had been seen eating at a Perkins restaurant in Spring Hill on Sunday.
DCF staffers said Staab may have taken the boys to New Jersey, where the Allains have relatives.
Circuit Judge William Hallman III told the Allains it was important to tell their daughter to bring the children back as soon as they speak to her.
"We don't know where the children are right now, and that's got the court concerned," Hallman said.
Tuesday's events were the latest twist in a story that came to light June 18 with the arrest of Arthur and Lori Allain on aggravated child abuse and child neglect charges.
Investigators said a 10-year-old girl in the Allains' custody was found weighing 29 pounds. She and her half-brother, 14, told a story of how the girl had been locked in a room for extended periods and fed sporadically.
Doctors who examined the girl told investigators she was dehydrated and malnourished. DCF attorney Hopkins said she was "at risk of imminent death." But her condition deteriorated during a period that DCF workers were supposed to be visiting the Allain home regularly.
Since the arrests, Hopkins said new allegations have arisen regarding sexual abuse, child-on-child sex and substance abuse in the Allain home.
He said DCF has obtained new evidence to back up some of the sex allegations. He would not provide specifics.
The Allains have said the 10-year-old girl has alleged she was sexually abused by Arthur Allain and one of the Allain boys.
The Allains also say the girl's half-brother has described seeing two of the brothers engaging in sex.
Judge Hallman denied a DCF request that the Allains get a drug test. But the Allains volunteered to be tested anyway. They said they had nothing to hide.
The Sheriff's Office has declined to comment on whether it plans to file sex charges against the Allains.
Since their release from jail in the neglect case, the Allains have denied all the accusations against them.
They said the girl had plenty to eat but was locked in her room at night to keep her from binge eating to the point of vomiting.
The Allains say both children are "perpetual liars" and point to examples of previous false statements and recanted stories in the children's case histories.
While the DCF attorney insisted the sex allegations were new, the Allains contended that DCF had investigated them before and deemed them unfounded.
Lori Allain said the boys have been overwhelmed by the media glare and the pressure placed on the family by the DCF, including the fear the family could be broken up at any minute. She said one of the boys was so stressed that he curled up in a ball Friday, trembling and drooling.
"They're going to have a really hard time with my kids. My kids hate them," Allain said.
The weekend tubing trip, she said, was an effort to help the kids "get a break."
Aside from the phone messages, Allain said she has not talked to her children since the family was together Friday night at a motel in Palm Harbor - hours before Staab and the boys set out on their adventure.
While the family has so far been content to rely on court-appointed attorneys, Allain said she would soon be represented by a team of five attorneys paid for by an investigative journalist from a national news magazine.
She declined to name the journalist or the magazine.
- Robert King can be reached at 352 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org