Five children were starved, shocked and hit with a hammer by a couple who disappeared after they were confronted by authorities, officials said.
John Dollar, 58, and his wife Linda Dollar, 51, remained missing Friday, four days after they skipped a hearing with the Department of Children & Families, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office said. The Dollars are wanted on felony charges of aggravated child abuse.
The five children, along with two others who did not appear to have been abused, were removed from the Dollars' home in Beverly Hills after one of the children called an ambulance for a 16-year-old boy who weighed less than 60 pounds and had suspicious injuries on his head and neck. The doctors alerted authorities.
The children, who ranged in age from 12 to 17, told officials that the Dollars struck them with a hammer, administered electric shocks and used pliers to pull off their toenails, sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said. The children showed signs of injury, including missing toenails, Tierney said.
Twin 14-year-old brothers were severely malnourished, weighing 36 and 38 pounds each, about 80 pounds below the normal weights for their age, police said.
Five of the children also told deputies they were forced to sleep in a locked walk-in closet because the Dollars accused them of stealing food and misbehaving, the sheriff's office said.
Officials declined to describe the relationship between the Dollars and the children, citing privacy concerns. The Dollars were not the children's biological or foster parents, child welfare department spokesman Bill Daiuto said.
The Dollars had moved with the children in August from Tennessee to the tidy home in a wooded neighborhood about 70 miles north of Tampa.
The children did not attend school and no other adults had regular contact with them, preventing authorities from intervening sooner, Tierney said.
"My impression was that they were basically prisoners in this home," Tierney said.
By Vickie Chachere