Parents accused of torturing adopted children

Date: 2010-08-12

Children told Seminole investigators they sometimes ate food from the trash to survive.

By Gary Taylor

They were adorable.

The 5-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother were the center of attention this year during a Valentine's Day-themed mass adoption in Orlando.

They had been through so much, officials said. After being taken away from their parents because of abuse, they spent two years in a foster home.

Photos of them taken by a professional photographer were featured last year in Heart Gallery, a traveling exhibition of children available for adoption through Family Services of Metro Orlando. A south Seminole County couple stepped forward to adopt them.

After about four months of living as a family, that status was made official Feb. 12.

Now the children, scarred and bruised from being beaten and malnourished, are back in a foster home, and their parents of six months are facing charges of torturing them.

Dwayne Hardy, 49, and Pamela Hardy, 46, were arrested Wednesday on two counts each of cruelty toward a child involving torture punishment. They were released from the Seminole County Jail in Sanford early Thursday after each posted $7,100 bail.

On arrest reports, Dwayne Hardy was listed as a driver for UPS, and Pamela Hardy was listed as unemployed. A sheriff's spokeswoman said Pamela Hardy was homeschooling the children.

A physician's assistant who examined the children found evidence of scarring and bruising and told investigators her findings suggest "elements of torture and a wanton disregard for the safety and well-being of the children," according to information in arrest affidavits released Thursday.

The girl, now 6, told investigators with Child Protective Services at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office that sometimes she would ask for more food and would be told she was "being greedy," and then would have to miss her next meal.

She said when nobody was looking she would eat out of the garbage, according to the reports.

State officials are considering termination of the Hardys' parental rights, said a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

"We're absolutely appalled to find the circumstances the children have gone through," DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said.

The boy, now 9, was severely malnourished, Seminole County Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said. "His face looked sunken," she said. The girl also was malnourished, but to a lesser extent, she said.

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