Records: Texas couple collected thousands for missing boys
COLORADO SPRINGS - Newly released court documents suggest that for years, the adoptive parents of a pair of children with special needs continued to collect thousands of dollars from the El Paso County Department of Human Services without ever having to prove that either of their kids was in school or even alive.
The bizarre case has now turned into a potential homicide investigation for members of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Edward Bryant, 58, and Linda Bryant, 54, each remain in the El Paso County Jail on $1 million bonds. Both had been living in Texas, but were separated at the time of their arrests.
The two, court documents show, adopted Austin Eugene Bryant and Edward Dylan Bryant on March 3, 2000. A third boy was also adopted at the time, but his whereabouts are currently known.
Investigators believe the last "verifiable time that Edward Bryant was alive was 2001." They also say the last time they can prove Austin Bryant was alive was in 2003 when his mother took him out of a Monument school to start home schooling the boy.
The investigation into their disappearance only began in January when a friend of Austin contacted investigators.
That friend told investigators that, among other things, he believed that years ago Austin "was often kept in a trunk" and that his adoptive parents rolled Austin "in blankets so he could not move and looked similar to a mummy."
When contacted by investigators in January, court records show Linda Bryant initially said the two boys "were doing fine and were living with her in Texas."
"She said that they had both recently left, approximately two months ago, to go see their biological mother in Oklahoma," an investigator reported.
Later, that investigator said, she changed her story and said the boys had run away from their home in Monument "between 2003 and 2005," although she never reported it.
The Bryants, investigators believe, lived in Colorado between 1999 and 2005. "[Linda Bryant] admitted that she had been collecting money for both children, but had not seen nor heard from either child since 2003 to 2005," reported the investigator.
The money came from the El Paso County Department of Human Services. The parents collected $891.87 per child every month because they were deemed to be "special needs."
Between January 2001 and January of this year, court documents suggest the parents received $174,816.82 from the county.
"Ms. Bryant agreed that she had come to rely on the money," court records show.
Edward Bryant [Senior] initially told investigators that "both children had run away in El Paso County. He stated that Edward had runaway in 2001 and Austin had runaway in 2005 just prior to the family moving to Texas," according to court documents.
Both are being held on suspicion of a variety of charges including felony theft and forgery. It is important to note that investigators are not officially calling them suspects in any potential homicide.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Human Resources told 9NEWS on Thursday that, generally speaking, once a family adopts a child it's presumed the parents are taking care of the children and thus entitled to any available benefits without additional review.
"Ms. Bryant and Mr. Bryant have consistently reported that the children are living with them in their care. Ms. Linda Bryant has provided school documentation faxed to the Department of Human Services in El Paso [County] verifying that Edward Bryant... was in school in the State of Texas at Callisburg Christian Academy and was due to graduate in June of 2011. Attempts to verify that this school exists have failed. It does not appear to exist," read the investigator's report.
El Paso County investigators spent the day Thursday searching the grounds around the Bryant's old home near Monument.
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