Brad Thill, who is charged with child abuse, rejects charges
By Nancy McCleary
LILLINGTON - A Harnett County man facing child abuse charges says he was overseas when the alleged abuse occurred and had no knowledge of what was happening in the home.
Brad Thill, 38, of the 800 block of Calvary Church Road in Cameron, was arrested Monday and charged with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse. He was released Monday on $5,000 bail, Harnett County Detention Center officials said.
Thill's ex-wife, Leslie Tiesler, is accused of abusing three of their five children by starving them, beating them and locking them in a tool box, authorities said.
Tiesler, 37, also of the 800 block of Calvary Church Road, was arrested Oct. 16 and charged with three counts of abuse, according to the Harnett County Sheriff's Office. Bail was set at $1 million.
Thill discussed the charges Tuesday morning at his lawyer's office in Lillington.
Jason Wunsch said the charges against his client are based on the belief that Thill did nothing to stop the alleged abuse.
"My client is not a monster," Wunsch said.
Thill is a former soldier who left the military in 2010 and began working as a contractor for the Department of Defense.
Thill said he and Tiesler were married for seven years. They split up, he said, but reconciled in December 2010 when he was home from his overseas job.
When he left about five days later, Thill said, Tiesler was in the process of moving back into the home on Calvary Church Road.
Thill said he was made aware of the abuse allegations by the Harnett County Department of Social Services and cooperated with the agency during the probe.
The Sheriff's Office said authorities began investigating in May when the Harnett County Department of Social Services filed a report with the Sheriff's Office about possible abuse after receiving a complaint from a resident. When Social Services looked into the complaint, workers suspected that three of the five children living at the residence were being abused. Four of the children are adopted; one is Tiesler's biological child.
Three of the adopted children - a 14-year-old and two 13-year-old boys - told lawmen they were starved, beaten with a wooden spoon, locked in rooms and in a tool box, the Sheriff's Office said. The three told investigators that the other two children participated in the abuse against them.
The Sheriff's Office has said it believes the abuse was carried out during a 14-month period while Thill was working overseas.
Details of the abuse were documented in an affidavit for a search warrant that was filed with the Harnett County Clerk of Court in May.
The three boys told authorities they were locked in a two-window bedroom with a bed, but they weren't allowed to sleep in it. They were forced to sleep in a large cardboard storage box instead. One of the windows was blocked by a dresser, the affidavit said, while the second led to the ground.
The door was secured with a retractable dog leash that was wrapped around the door and hooked to a towel rack in the bathroom, the affidavit said.
"... The children would not be able to escape the bedroom if there were an accident, an emergency, or a fire in the home," the documents said.
They were given minimal clothing, the affidavit said, and the only means of communication was a baby monitor. It was allowed to be used only to ask permission to use the restroom - which was denied in some cases, the documents said.
A 37-inch storage container was used as punishment by forcing a child inside and locking it, the affidavit said.
A tube or straw placed in a crack in the container allowed the only air inside, the affidavit said. A tape recorder was put on top of the box and the boys were warned that if any noise was made they would be punished or not given food, the affidavit said.
Food was used as a punishment, the affidavit said, and three boys ate differently "because the good food is a privilege."
The abuse continued for about two years, the affidavit said, and when doctors finally examined the children, their conditions were described as "emaciated" and "malnourished."
"The condition of the children were not seen by the public because the children were being home-schooled," the affidavit said.
Thill said Tuesday that he helped Social Services with its investigation. He said none of the children ever mentioned abuse to him.
He said he noticed that two of the children had lost a significant amount of weight. Thill said that when he asked his wife about it, she said one of them was forcing himself to vomit and they were staying up for days on end.
The children have been removed from the home and have since gained weight, the Sheriff's Office said.
Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3568.