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A Florida children’s book author and her husband have been arrested on child abuse charges after one of their adopted children had to be put on a ventilator and had internal damage as well as “lacerations, bruises abrasions and scabs” that indicated a history of abuse.
Jennifer Wolfthal—whose latest book “A Real Friend” focuses on how children can successfully manage conflict—is now facing charges of aggravated child abuse, neglect and false imprisonment after allegedly subjecting her three adopted children to horrific abuse, according to local station WESH.
Her husband Joseph Wolfthal, 39, is also facing three counts of false imprisonment and three counts of child neglect in the case.
The investigation began when Seminole County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a local hospital on New Year’s Day after receiving a call about a child suffering from “an undetermined medical issue,” according to a police report obtained by The Miami Herald.
The young girl, who was placed in the pediatric intensive care unit, was unconscious required a ventilator. She weighed just 40 pounds, had internal damage, and “external lacerations, bruises, abrasions and scabs” across her body, authorities said.
Medical professionals noted she had chipped a tooth, two black eyes, a cut to her lip and sores on her legs that had not been treated, according to the report.
Joseph Wolfthal told deputies that the girl had received the extensive injuries during a series of accidents. He said she hurt herself after she brushed her teeth too hard and then fell into a desk and a toilet because she suffered from vertigo.
“Due to the height and weight of [the girl], it is not likely the swollen bruise on the back of her head and the laceration on her lip and broken tooth were caused by off balance falls,” authorities said in police report.
Officials also determined the child had sepsis, a staph infection, pneumonia in both lungs and was suffering from renal and liver failure, according to the report, also obtained by WFTV.
An investigation would determine that the couple’s other two children also showed signs of malnutrition and had bruises and other injuries, according to the report.
The couple allegedly locked the children in their rooms for days or weeks at a time and provided them with little food. One of the children told investigators that both parents poured cold water over the kids as they laid in their beds as a form of punishment.
The girl also said she had not interacted with her siblings or other adults in years. The only way she was able to keep track of time was by counting the number of days in her head that had passed, according to the report.
The couple adopted the three children in 2014.
Bob Kealing, a public information officer for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, told Oxygen.com that Sheriff Dennis Lemma has urged the public to remember that children are spending an “inordinate amount of time at home due to the pandemic” and are not regular seen by teachers and other mandatory reporters of suspected abuse.
“If you see something that’s not right, call your local authorities or child abuse hotline,” Kealing said.
After Jennifer was arrested, Clavis Publishing, which had published her latest book, posted a statement on social media.
“At Clavis, we believe that children are beautiful and deserve our utmost respect and care. That is why we publish books to enrich their lives and help them grow up learning to know themselves, how to interact with others in a good way and how the world works,” the statement said. “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. We will do what’s within our power to cease communication of her book further.”
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