By Edmund DeMarche
Authorities in El Paso, Colo., have opened an investigation into the decade-old disappearance of two foster children, one of whom appears to have been physically abused while in the care of his parents.
“The message is that we want to get this out, and we want to find these boys,” said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa at a press conference on Thursday night.
Edward Dylan Bryant, who would today be 18-years-old, disappeared in 2001, and Austin Bryant, who would be 15, went missing as early as 2003.
Authorities say since then, their parents never reported them missing and have falsified records to collect $175,000 from the government to raise the two boys.
The boy’s adopted father, Edward Bryant, 58, and mother, Linda, 54, who are separated, were arrested in Texas and currently in jail in Colorado Springs. They have been held on $1 million bail.
Each face theft and forgery charges.
They have not, however, been charged in the disappearances of Austin and Edward. Calls to an attorney who represented them in a bankruptcy case filed in 2007 did not return a phone message to the Associated Press and their legal representation remains unclear.
The boys’ father allegedly told authorities that Edward ran away in 2001 and Austin in 2003, right before the family moved to Texas. The Bryants lived in the Monument area near Colorado Springs between 1999 and 2005 and most recently, they lived in the Dallas area.
He allegedly laid blame on his wife for any money received since their disappearance. He denied knowledge of receiving money for the children, but allegedly admitted to police that he signed documentation stating that the children were in his care in order to continue to receive funds from the Colorado Department of Human Services.
He also allegedly acknowledged that he and his wife never reported the children missing, according to the affidavit.
His wife, Linda, allegedly admitted some criminal culpability for not reporting the missing children.
She allegedly acknowledged that she intentionally covered up the fact they were missing to make it impossible for those in position to make a rescue, according to the affidavit. She allegedly offered to take reasonability for all the charges so her husband could keep the five children they still have.
Linda denied killing the boys and denied most of the abuse allegations, but allegedly acknowledged delaying food for Edward and Austin, the affidavit said.
The police investigation started shortly after Bryan Pennington, a foster child who knew Austin growing up, reported Austin missing on Jan. 22, 2011, after a conversation with another person who knew Austin, according to the affidavit.
James Bryant, the boys' adopted brother who was interviewed at Fort Campbell, Ky., agreed to discuss situation with the El Paso Sheriff’s office.
James told detectives that there has been significant abuse at home. He said Austin was spanked, restrained by being rolled “like a burrito” and perhaps handcuffed. He also said Austin was denied food two to three times a week as a form of punishment, according to an affidavit.
Austin got so hungry, James said, he would eat out of the garbage can, according to the affidavit. He would also be left in the garage days at a time and be forced to run up and down the driveway for several hours.
The last time he saw Austin alive was in 2003. He also said his mother asked him for help to find a friend to pose as Austin for an upcoming Department of Human Services visit, according to the affidavit.
Pennington, meanwhile, informed investigators that Austin told him that his parents used a taser on him and showed him welts all over his torso, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit has little information regarding Edward. James told authorities he doesn’t know anything about his adopted brother, according to the affidavit. He was told Edward was sent to Arizona to care for an ailing relative.
State adoption records are sealed, Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services told the Associated Press. An El Paso County Department of Human Services spokesman didn't return phone messages.
Maketa stressed that the investigation is ongoing and he hopes to find the boys alive.
"We're really asking the country to let us know if you know anything," he said.