A Florida children’s book author and her husband are facing charges for allegedly abusing three adopted children, in what police are calling the most disturbing case of child abuse seen in Seminole County.
ABC 9 reports that Jennifer Wolfthal and Joseph Wolfthal, of Casselberry, are facing charges of aggravated child abuse, child neglect with great bodily harm, and false imprisonment. Both were arrested on New Year’s Day.
According to court documents, the couple adopted three children, all under the age of 12, and all three were subject to ongoing abuse. One of the children remains hospitalized in serious condition.
On New Year’s Day, Joseph Wolfthal arrived at a local hospital in Seminole County, with a child who had pneumonia, a staph infection, renal failure, liver failure, and sepsis. The child was also malnourished and had open wounds.
While interviewing the other children, detectives learned that the couple routinely locked the kids inside their rooms for weeks and sometimes months with little food and no showers, or baths. Detectives said that when the children were fed, they were given “a mixture of bran flakes cereal, water and vegetable puree.”
The couple also poured cold water over the children while they were in bed, according to police. One of the children, a girl, told detectives she had to drink from the water to be able to breathe. The couple then left the children to sleep while cold and wet.
The same child reportedly said she hadn’t been around her siblings or adults in so long that she had to count in her head each day of the week to keep track. Seminole County detectives said that all three children hadn’t seen the outside in years, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
When authorities searched the home, they found locks on the outside of the children’s bedrooms. A girl told detectives that sometimes she would spend all day and night writing “apology statements several hundred times” in her room.
The girl was told that she “couldn’t stop sinning,” and had to face punishment. She was also alleged punished for wetting the bed or not eating the food provided to her.
“My body stays flat on the bed at all time. I was never given permission to move or say anything,’” one of the children stated according to the report.
The couple recently filed for divorce, according to the ABC 9. Joseph Wolfhal is reportedly seeking full custody of the children. Interviews with the children indicated that Joseph, a software engineer, participated in the abuse, although he claimed his wife conducted the corporal punishment.
One of the children said the couple would “spank her in the same spot to the point of drawing blood.”
The couple used a private adoption agency in 2014 to adopt the children.
Jennifer Wolfthal initially bailed out of jail but was arrested again Thursday on three new charges of false imprisonment. She remains behind bars without bail. Joseph Wolfthal posted the $45,000 bond on Tuesday and has since been released.
Clavis Publishing recently removed Jennifer Wolfhal, who authored the children’s book, “A Real Friend,” from its authors’ list.
“We were made aware of horrific news regarding one-time, Clavis’ author Jennifer Wolfthal’s arrest and strongly condemn child abuse, abandonment and neglect, today and always,” a statement from the publishing company said. “We will do what’s within our power to cease commercialization of her book further.”
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[Feature Photo: Jennifer Wolfthal and Joseph Wolfthal/Police Handout]