WORD FOR WORD
Grandma blames Dollars' children
By LANE DEGREGORY
Published April 19, 2005
If he hadn't stolen those two granola bars, his brothers and sister might still be locked in their parents' closet.
But he was hungry, the 16-year-old boy told investigators later. He weighed 59 pounds.
On Jan. 20, the Citrus County teenager took two trail mix bars from his parents' RV. He was going to run away, his siblings said later. He had tried before.
But something happened near the driveway. At first, the boy said he tripped on his shoelace; others said his dad was chasing him. Whatever happened, somehow he fell and split his head.
Doctors at the hospital noticed how thin the boy was. They called the Department of Children and Families, which found that the boy's twin 14-year-old brothers weighed 36 and 38 pounds. A judge removed seven children, all adopted, from the home. (An eighth child, also adopted, was married and no longer living there.) Their parents, John Dollar, 59, and Linda Dollar, 52, are being held without bail on charges of torture and aggravated child abuse involving five of the children. Their children say they shocked them with a cattle prod, pulled out their toenails with pliers and forced four of them to sleep in a closet so they wouldn't steal food. When their mom was mad at them, the children said, she wouldn't let them eat for two days. When she did feed them, she often gave them just a cup of rice.
John Dollar's mother lived with the family and knew what was going on, the children said. From jail, Linda Dollar wrote to her mother-in-law, begging her forgiveness. "You know I tried hard, Mom," Linda Dollar wrote in evidence released this month.
"Please step up to the plate and let people know we didn't abuse the children day in and day out."
A Citrus County detective questioned the grandmother, Pauline Dollar, 85, about where the children slept, what they ate and what they got for Christmas.
This is part of that interview.
DETECTIVE: Now, you need to understand something, okay? This is a big investigation here, and at this point in time I only need you to cooperate, because I'd rather you be a witness in the case than a suspect in the case, okay? Because there is a law in this state that if you, that if you are aware that children are being abused in a home that you live in and you don't report it to somebody, you can go to jail for that. Okay. Well, has there ever been a time that you have seen your son beating on these kids that you have had to leave your room and go out there and tell him that's enough?
DOLLAR: Good example, this little dog, when I pick him up, he wiggles, wiggles, wiggles and you've got to hold him tight.
DOLLAR: I have seen (name deleted), who is now 17, kick his mother in the shins. Are you just gonna stand there and just let 'em kick? You have to hold him, not choke him, not, not hurt the boy necessarily.
DETECTIVE: But is it necessary to hold the child around the neck though?
DOLLAR: Are you gonna hold him any other way? Where you hold the child?
DETECTIVE: You would hold them on their arms.
(Later in interview.)
DETECTIVE: So, where did the children sleep?
DOLLAR: Well, they slept on the, had bunk beds 'til they messed up the mattresses so that she (their mom) couldn't, so she had the nice soft bed and great big pillows and they slept on the floor where they could watch them. 'Cause they would prowl at night.
DETECTIVE: Where, where?
DOLLAR: In their bedroom.
DETECTIVE: In the closet?
DOLLAR: Part of 'em, part of 'em in the closet so that she could see 'em.
DETECTIVE: And what about when they would stick wind chimes in there to make sure the kids couldn't escape at night?
DOLLAR: Well at night they'd come to the icebox. I, I sleep here and I'd try to watch 'em. They sneak in the icebox and grab, for instance (name deleted) ate at one time, ate three pounds of cheese.
(Later in interview.)
DETECTIVE: Do you know that a doctor has said that they are malnourished from not being fed enough?
DOLLAR: They've been fed, Honey. I seen 'em.
DETECTIVE: What do they eat? Tell me what they eat.
DOLLAR: I can show you. She had in the kitchen there, a thing this big full of rice. . . .
DETECTIVE: And that's all she feeds 'em?
DOLLAR: Oh no, not just rice. But what I mean is, she, they can't eat spicy things. Their systems . . .
DETECTIVE: Guess what? They're in homes right now and they are already gaining weight. They are eating everything in sight.
DOLLAR: Well they couldn't here. (Name deleted) was sick at his stomach from that uh, fall. And . . .
DETECTIVE: Well yeah, but I'm talking about before even that fall. These kids are gaining weight like crazy. They don't even look like the same children. You wouldn't even recognize them. And they're telling me that you knew . . .
DOLLAR: I . . .
DETECTIVE: . . . that they only ate rice . . .
DOLLAR: Well they had rice . . .
DETECTIVE: . . . beans . . .
DOLLAR: . . . beans and potatoes.
DETECTIVE: . . . potatoes. And at one time, you even made the comment to the mother about how it seems like this is all you ever feed them. And then she made them vegetables . . .
DOLLAR: Well you know what they did with bread when you gave it to them? They'd wad it up and put it under the table and they'd put it under the chair. You know . . .
DETECTIVE: You know why? Do you know why? They were saving it for later to eat because they were starving.
DOLLAR: No they weren't.
DOLLAR: I've seen 'em give 'em food.
(Later in interview.)
DETECTIVE: Let me ask you this, what did the kids get for Christmas?
DOLLAR: Nothing this year 'cause I tell ya, I gave things and they tore things up. I gave 'em the nicest little box of tools one day. So they took the, those tools, tore everything up around 'em, they tore up the furniture. . . .
DETECTIVE: Let me ask you this, did (name deleted) and (name deleted) get anything for Christmas?
DOLLAR: No, I didn't give 'em any.
DETECTIVE: No, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about the family.
DOLLAR: No, they, they didn't get any 'cause we had . . . 'cause we're moving and we just don't have the money now.
DETECTIVE: . . . According to (name deleted) and (name deleted), they both got presents this Christmas. They got games, they got other things. (Name deleted) told me that she also got, like, food items to eat and jewelry.
DOLLAR: Oh, I gave her, I gave her a little necklace or something like that.
DETECTIVE: Those other four kids that were in there, you know what they got for Christmas? They got their rice returned back to them that they got taken away three weeks before because they got in trouble.
DOLLAR: Well, they didn't act like they deserved it.
DETECTIVE: What do you mean they didn't act like they deserved to eat food?
DOLLAR: I'm not saying they don't deserve . . . they just, these children are . . . I couldn't handle 'em. I just couldn't.
-- Word for Word is an occasional feature excerpting passages of interest from books, magazines, Web sites and other sources. The text may be edited for space but the original spelling, grammar and punctuation are unchanged.
[Last modified April 18, 2005, 19:50:02]
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