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Crime News

Couple Allegedly Kept Boy Handcuffed In Closet For Up To 16 Hours A Day As Punishment

John Hernandez, 41, and Natasha Dabbs, 37, face a number of child abuse-related charges in Hillsborough County, Florida.

By Dorian Geiger

A Florida couple is accused of imprisoning a young boy in a closet for up to 16 hours a day as “punishment,” for misbehaving, according to authorities.

John Hernandez, 41, and Natasha Dabbs, 37, were arrested on Sunday after deputies responded to reports of a missing child and found a boy hiding in the couple’s Tampa home.

Hernandez allegedly told investigators he'd handcuffed the boy and forced him to stand in the tiny space between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. for a number of weeks, according to WFTSThe Florida father admitted to locking the child in the closet for hours at a time because he had “behavioral issues,” police said, WEAR-TV also reported.

Dabbs, who authorities say confessed she didn’t try to stop the draconian disciplinary measures, also allegedly told law enforcement the couple had been locking the boy in the closet since at least Dec. 25.

John Hernandez Natasha Dabbs Pd

"The actions of this couple are reprehensible," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told WFLA. "I am so proud of our deputies for noticing something was not right while they were at the initial call and following through. Their actions may have saved this young boy's life."

The boy's name and age have not been released, nor has his relationship with the suspects, in accordance with Marsy's Law, according to WEAR-TV.

Hernandez was charged with aggravated child abuse, online jail records show. He’s being held at Hillsborough County detention center on a $25,000 bond. Dabbs, who faces child neglect and failure to report child abuse, is also being held on a $10,000 bond.

It’s unclear if either of the Florida couple has retained legal representation.