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Couple gets 15 years in prison for torturing kids

Florida couple accused of abusing children in their custody are seen in police handout photos
Linda and John Dollar, seen in undated  photos distributed by the Citrus County (Fla.) Sheriff's Department.Ho / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

A couple accused of starving and torturing five of their seven adopted children, including yanking out toenails with pliers, pleaded no contest to aggravated child abuse Wednesday.

John and Linda Dollar were sentenced to 15 years each in prison. While the plea is not an admission of guilt, it means the Dollars chose not to contest the charges and would accept the court’s punishment.

The five children were so severely underfed that twin 14-year-old brothers weighed just 36 and 38 pounds each — about 80 pounds below normal. Police compared their conditions to victims of Nazi concentration camps.

Prosecutors said the couple also tortured five of the children, ages 12 to 17, with an electric cattle prod and bondage equipment. One of the children told police his toenails were ripped off with pliers.

The two other children were favored by the Dollars and had no physical injuries.

Dressed in red jumpsuits and chained at the waist, the Dollars admitted they let the situation get out of hand. The family lived in a secluded home and the children were home schooled, so no outsiders knew about their conditions.

“It was not intentional that they be harmed in any way,” John Dollar said.

The allegations surfaced Jan. 21 when the couple’s 16-year-old son was admitted to a hospital with a head wound and red marks on his neck. He weighed less than 60 pounds.

The Dollars were arrested in Utah in February after leaving the state when the investigation began.

The children have been placed in foster care under the supervision of the state Department of Children and Families, and the couple must terminate all parental rights.