tampabay.com

Skin-and-ink image takes flight in case

By ANDREW SKERRITT
Published November 1, 2005


Can you imagine the movie?

Tommy & Lori on the Lam.

It seemed almost inevitable since Hernando County residents Lori and Arthur "Tommy" Allain first walked out of the Hernando County Jail that day in June 2004, all tattoos and attitude.

In her early court appearances, Lori Allain wore outfits that showed off the tattoo on her chest: a cross and the words "Only God Can Judge Me."

The Allains reveled in their image as outlaws.

As they appeared for court over the past 16 months, that style didn't change much.

But after the couple failed to appear for trial Oct. 25, a circuit judge issued a warrant for their arrest. The Allains, accused of aggravated abuse and child neglect, were among Hernando County's most wanted. The outlaw image became real.

The trial was originally scheduled for Oct. 24, but Hurricane Wilma intervened. All government offices were closed.

Sam Parish of Al Parish Bail Bonds handled the Allains' combined $20,000 bail.

Parish says the couple showed up at the government building Monday but couldn't get in. They called him twice from the courthouse and again later from Arthur Allain's attorney's office, he said.

However, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead said the couple didn't show.

Parish learned from an attorney the next day that the Allains didn't appear for their trial. They were on the run.

Normally, if a suspect doesn't show for trial within five days, the court clerk notifies the bondsman of the forfeiture. The bail bondsman has another two months to either pay up or capture the fugitive.

Capturing fugitives in Florida is a low-key, not-made-for-TV business. Bounty hunters aren't allowed in the state, said Kathy Koch of Gene Hood Bail Bonds in Spring Hill.

Bail bondsmen rely on friends, co-workers, relatives, the people who put up the property or the money, to put pressure on fugitives to turn themselves in. Sometimes bondsmen stake out known locations. When they spot a fugitive, they call the Sheriff's Office.

Hernando County sheriff's spokesman Deputy Donna Black said the Allains haven't been seen in the county. The Allains' friends have been rushing forward with excuses, not leads, for their no-show.

The outlaw role isn't exactly new for the couple. Arthur Allain's arrest record goes back to 1978. Fifteen years ago, he was convicted of obstruction of justice and fleeing and eluding police in Pinellas. He served a month in jail. In 1987, Lori Allain was convicted of trafficking in narcotic painkillers.

On June 18, 2004, Lori and Arthur Allain Jr. were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect.

They are accused of locking a 10-year-old girl under their care in a bedroom with only spoonfuls of food and a paint bucket for a toilet.

The two were arrested after the girl's brother ran away from the Allains' home and told authorities about systematic abuse, which left his sister weighing 29 pounds and, according to state officials, at risk of death.

The Allains deny the abuse and child neglect allegations. They say the girl had an eating disorder. But since they're missing, those denials don't mean much.

With the couple unaccounted for, key issues remain unresolved. The Allain case, after all, isn't just about the couple and the two siblings they're accused of mistreating.

By the way, DCF spokesman Al Zimmerman says the two siblings are now healthy, safe and doing well.

The allegations prompted DCF to appoint an independent task force, which in a 25-page report accused the agency of missing obvious warning signs of mistreatment and abuse that proved the children shouldn't have been left in the Allains' care.

This case will put DCF under the spotlight. The 16-month saga has done much to remind us of how dysfunctional DCF can be, of the agency's repeated failure to protect the most vulnerable children.

About a dozen DCF District 13 employees have been subpoenaed to testify in the case, Zimmerman said.

It's doubtful the Allains' two attorneys will treat DCF social workers as friendly witnesses.

Thanks to the Allains' outlaw status, however, the courtroom drama is on hold. The final scene hasn't been shot. Whatever the script, there will be no happy ending.

--Andrew Skerritt can be reached in central Pasco at 813 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is askerritt@sptimes.com