A couple in St. Lucie County, Florida, is accused of abusing three teenagers for months who lived in their home in what investigators call a “horrific case.”
Oscar Torres, 40, and Brittany Kirschenhofer, 32, were arrested for child abuse, and the children were removed from the home, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office announced.
The duo is accused of locking three teenagers, one 17-year-old and two 16-year-old twins, in their shared bedroom for hours at a time. The children were only sporadically fed throughout the day, according to police
One of the teenagers told detectives that they had to “secretly scavenge for scraps of food.” The victims weighed well below the accepted standard for their ages, police said.
“Their hip bones were protruding from the pelvic area, and bones along the spine were pushing through the skin of their back with the beginning stages of an open sore,” Chief Deputy Brian Hester said during a press conference streamed by local media.
Investigators said one of the children only weighed 50 pounds. They were hallucinating with loss of verbal communication, muscle control, and other bodily functions.
“Medical evaluations all confirmed this condition was a direct result of malnutrition and required a feeding tube to try and gradually bring the child back to the appropriate level of nutrition for their age,” Hester said.
Authorities said they were alerted to the case on Feb. 10 after an anonymous complaint.
Torres and Kirschenhofer claimed the locks on the teens’ doors were used to keep the dogs contained and that all of the children could move freely throughout the home.
The teenagers attended virtual school, and told investigators that they had not left home since December, according to the sheriff's office.
There were a total of five children in the home. The three who were abused were Torres’s children. Hester said the other two children were treated “much, much differently than the other three children.”
The children were removed from the home on Feb. 22.
All three teenagers are in the care of their biological mother, who was unaware of the abuse and isolated from the family for several years.
The other two children, ages 6 and 9, who were living in the home, are staying with other relatives. Investigators say Kirschenhofer is the biological mother of these two children.
"The details of this case are disturbing and some of the most appalling examples of child neglect that I have heard in my 26 years in law enforcement," Hester said.
Torres and Kirschenhofer are being held without bond on three counts of child abuse and neglect.