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Dollars accept plea in child torture case

The couple accused of torturing their adopted children accepted a deal Wednesday which calls for them to serve 15-year prison sentences.

Published September 14, 2005

[Times photo: Stephen J. Coddington]
Linda and John Dollar raise their shackled right hands to swear to tell the truth during Wednesday's hearing before Judge Ric Howard at the Citrus County Courthouse. The Dollars accepted a plea deal which calls for 15-year prison terms.

Detective in the case speaks in court
Prosecutor didn't want to force children to testify
Testimony: Dollar children lived like war prisoners (09/09/05)
Hearing looks at how Dollar kids testify (08/30/05)
Dollars' appeal to get bail is denied (08/13/05)

John and Linda Dollar, the Citrus County couple accused of torturing five of their adopted children, accepted a plea bargain Wednesday afternoon that calls for them to each serve 15-year prison sentences and 15 years of probation.

Circuit Judge Ric Howard approved the deal during a hearing at the Citrus County Courthouse. The Dollars each pleaded no contest. They previously had pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated child abuse and were awaiting an Oct. 31 trial.

John Dollar, 59, and his 52-year-old wife were arrested in February. Investigators say they removed their children's toenails with pliers, shocked them with a cattle prod, withheld food, forced the children to sleep in a closet, and otherwise abused them.

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 their conditions.

"It was not intentional that they be harmed in any way," John Dollar said. "They were not responsible. We love them, wish them well."

He then started to cry.

"I just want to say that I'm sorry for any harm that I might have caused the children," Linda Dollar said. "It was never any intent to harm them."

The five abused 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.

The Inverness couple also tortured the children with an electric cattle prod and bondage equipment. The two children who were not mistreated were favored by the Dollars and had no physical injuries.

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 family lived in a secluded home and the children were home schooled, so no one outside the family knew their conditions.

The Dollars were arrested in Utah in February after leaving the state when the investigation began. They had moved to Florida about two years earlier from Tennessee.

-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified September 14, 2005, 18:13:08]

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