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Couple accused of torturing children

Allegedly pulled out kids' toenails, beat them with hammers

Child Abuse

(CNN) -- A manhunt has been launched in Florida for a couple accused of torturing five of seven children in their home, including pulling out their toenails with pliers and keeping them so malnourished that they "looked like pictures from Auschwitz," authorities said Thursday.

Citrus County Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said an arrest warrant was issued for John Dollar, 58, and his wife, Linda, 51 -- each of whom face one count of "aggravated child abuse/torture" for all five children.

The Dollars were the legal guardians of all seven children, although they were not their biological parents, Tierney said. She said the other two children were said to be "favorites" of the Dollars, and were spared their alleged abuse.

The case came to authorities' attention two weeks ago, when a 16-year-old was transported from the family home in Beverly Hills, Florida, to a local hospital. The boy was bleeding from a laceration on his head and there were red marks on his neck. He weighed just 59 pounds, Tierney said.

"That was just the start of the alarming parts of this case," she told CNN in a telephone interview.

Authorities went to the home and interviewed the rest of the children, including two twin 14-year-old boys who were so malnourished they weighed a mere 36 and 38 pounds -- the weight of a typical 4-year-old.

"To look at the photos I saw, it was just extremely unnerving," Tierney said. "They looked like pictures from Auschwitz."

The Dollars are accused of forcing the five children -- who ranged in age from 12 to 16 -- to sleep in a closet in the master bedroom with a "wind chime affixed to the door so that the Dollars would know if they tried to get out of the closet," Tierney said.

In addition, they are accused of using a cattle prod or some sort of stun gun to shock the children, bonding them to certain spots in the house with chains, striking their feet with hammers and pulling the children's toenails out with pliers.

"There was evidence of damage or missing toenails of these children," Tierney said.

She said it also appeared as if the Dollars tried to keep them inside the home as much as possible, and each child was home-schooled.

In the incident two weeks ago, on Jan. 21, Linda Dollar was out shopping when the 16-year-old boy was injured. John Dollar was home.

Tierney said investigators believe the husband grabbed the boy by his neck, raising him off his feet and then dropping him. The boy struck his head on a fireplace, causing the laceration to his head -- information that has been corroborated by the other children in the home, she said.

All seven children were removed from the home last Thursday and placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The Dollars were to appear in court for a DCF hearing Monday. They never showed up.

Authorities believe they may be traveling in a 1996 black-and-gold Prevost Marathon motor home with Florida tag number U06YAC. The couple may also be towing a 2000 gold-colored, 4-door Lexus with Florida tag number DH41D.

Authorities say anyone who sees the vehicle or vehicles should call 352-726-1121.

The couple moved to their Beverly Hills home last August from Hillsborough County, near Tampa. Before that, they lived in Tennessee with the seven children.

The children who were allegedly abused are a 16-year old boy; two twin 14-year-old boys; a 13-year-old girl; and a 12-year-old girl. The two who were not harmed were a 17-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy.

There is no evidence of sexual abuse, Tierney said.

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