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Real Friend children's book author and her husband are arrested 'for abusing and starving their three adopted kids one of whom suffered liver failure and pneumonia'

  • Jennifer Wolfthal, 41, and Joseph Wolfthal, 39, charged with false imprisonment, aggravated child abuse and neglect with bodily harm 
  • Couple are accused of abusing their three adopted children, ages 8, 9 and 11 by denying them food, pouring cold water on them and forcing them to do squats
  • Youngest child was hospitalized on New Year's Day with kidney and liver failure, sepsis, pneumonia in both lungs, malnutrition and open wounds on her legs 
  • Nine-year-old girl told police her adoptive parents would tell her she couldn't stop sinning whenever she was punished 
  • Child said the Wolfthals fed her twice a day a mixture of bran flakes cereal, water and vegetable puree
  • In November, Jennifer, a former elementary school teacher, published a children's book titled A Real Friend 

A Florida children's book author and her husband have been arrested on a slew of charges accusing them of abusing and neglecting their three adopted children, one of whom has spent weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries and ailments.

Jennifer Wolfthal, 41, of Casselberry, was initially arrested on New Year's Day on charges of aggravated child abuse, neglect with great bodily harm and battery.

On Tuesday, she was arrested again on three counts of false imprisonment.

A day earlier, the woman's husband, Joseph Wolfthal, 39, was booked into the Seminole County Jail on charges of aggravated child abuse, neglect with bodily harm and false imprisonment.

According to a detailed arrest report, the incident began unfolding at around 2.30pm on January 1, when police were called to Advent Hospital in Winter Park for a medical issue involving an eight-year-old girl.

The responding officer learned from a Child Protective Services investigator at the hospital that the girl had been brought to the facility by her father, Joseph Wolfthal, and that she was 'critically ill.'

The Wolfthals’ adopted daughter was diagnosed with kidney and liver failure, sepsis, a staph infection, open infected wounds on both legs and pneumonia in both lungs.

The child's long list of ailments also included malnutrition, bruises and skin infections, which have required weeks of treatment.

In the course of the investigation, police wrote they uncovered evidence of abuse targeting not only the eight-year-old victim, but also the Wolfthal couple’s two other adopted children: a nine-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl.

The girl reported that 'she did not want to go back to her parents and on several occasions, she referred to herself by saying that according to her parents, she "couldn’t stop sinning,"' which police said was something the Wolfthals would tell their daughter anytime she was punished.

The 11-year-old girl told police she would be disciplined for not going to the bathroom at the 'proper' times, for wetting the bed, for not performing her exercises, which entailed doing squats, and for not eating her meals, which consisted of a mixture of bran flakes cereal, water and vegetable puree, according to the arrest report.

'The [girl] said that there were days that she was fed twice and sometimes she didn't eat her first meal until "3 o'clock in the afternoon,"' police wrote.

When officers searched the family’s home on Kindling Court in Casselberry, they reportedly found the girl's writings, which stated: 'my body stays flat on the bed at all times. I was never given permission to move or say anything. Now I get to write about this along with everything else. I am a fool.’

The 11-year-old girl and nine-year-old boy both told police that every night they would have cold water poured over them while they lay in bed as punishment, stated the report.

According to the girl, she had not interacted with her siblings or any adults other than her parents in several years, and she 'tried to keep track of the days and months by counting in her head,' the report read.

She also claimed that she had not taken a bath in months, and that she would be denied bandages for her open wounds.

The officer observed that the doorknobs on the children’s bedrooms were installed with the locking mechanism on the outside, and said it was evident from talking to the children that 'they were scared to leave their rooms even at night to use the bathroom and as a result would “pee in their pants" and sleep in it on an almost daily basis rather than risk leaving their rooms or communicating with each other,' the reported revealed. 

A judge on Tuesday set Joseph's bond at $210,000. He is due back in court for his arraignment on March 9. His wife is being held in jail without bond. 

In November, Jennifer published a children's book titled A Real Friend, which tells the story of two best friends who get into a fight. 

According to her biography posted on Amazon.com, Jennifer has a degree in elementary education from University of Central Florida and spent eight years teaching fourth grade in public school. 

'She continued her teaching journey through homeschooling her own children,' according to the post. 

In the aftermath of Jennifer's arrest this month, her publisher released a statement saying it will cease further commercialization of her book.

'At Clavis, we believe that children are beautiful and deserve our utmost respect and care,' reads the statement. 'We were made aware of horrific news regarding one-time, Clavis’ author Jennifer Wolfthal’s arrest and strongly condemn child abuse, abandonment and neglect, today and always.' 

2021 Jan 27