Couple Accused Of Torturing 2 Adopted Children
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Investigators said a Seminole County couple is accused of torturing two of their young children.
Neighbors said from what they could tell on the outside, Dwayne and Pamela Hardy were great parents. State officials also said there were no red flags.
However, investigators said they believe the adopted children were starved and scarred physically and emotionally by the two people who were supposed to give them a better life.
Pat Naas has lived next door to the Hardys for eight years. He said he has never seen a violent side to the parents or any signs that they were abusing a 6-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother, who the couple adopted in February. The children were taken from the home on Aug. 10, investigators said.
"They seemed happy to me," Naas said.
Deputies said they were alerted to the situation by an anonymous caller.
"We suspect, unfortunately, that this abuse could possibly have been going on for upwards of six months," said Lt. James Clark, with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
The children told Seminole County investigators that they have endured months of torture. They said their parents punished them by withholding meals -- sometimes for days -- forcing them to do push-ups and jumping jacks and spanking them until they bled.
Department of Children and Families officials said the children were physically abused with things like belts, wooded spoons and wooded paddles.
Investigators said they found a paddle, which appears to have dried blood on it. The item has been taken to forensics.
A report from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said the little girl was spanked until she started to bleed.
According to the report, the boy told investigators, "If his 'butt' starts to bleed from being paddled, his mom would scrape the blood off his leg with the paddle, put it back on his butt, and continue to spank him."
According to an incident report, the boy said he had been caught sneaking food, and the consequences of that would be a few days without eating.
DCF said the siblings had been placed in the Hardy's home as a foster family last fall. To officially adopt them in February, the couple had to pass a background check and home inspection.
The state looked into their references, financial records and even the stability of their marriage. Officials said it's an extensive process turned up no red flags.
Neighbors said it's a dark secret that the children kept well-hidden and wish they would have seen something sooner.
"They were out playing with the other children on the block, (and) you'd never know anything," Naas said.
The children have been placed back with their original foster family.
There was another child in the house, investigators said, and there were no signs that he had been abused.
Both parents face first-degree felony charges. The couple has bonded out of jail on $7,100 each but hadn't returned home Thursday night.
Officials said the children had been abused in the past by others. They were in the foster care program because of a traumatic experience, officials said.