A Florida foster parent is accused of carrying out the “horrendous” torture of a teenager in her care, whom authorities suspect was deliberately targeted.
Patricia Hyler, 47, allegedly abused all four of her foster children, however, she took a “special interest” in tormenting a 14-year-old boy in her care, whom investigators referred to as the “target child,” according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.
An unidentified witness tipped off law enforcement to the alleged abuse in April after the individual received a concerning text message from a minor in Hyler’s care, authorities said.
Detectives later located the foster mother’s kids, who appeared unbathed, and some of whom had sustained visible injuries; her home, they said, was a “wreck.”
The children were all allegedly subjected to abuse, and were sometimes clobbered with wooden baseball bats, according to a probable cause statement.
But investigators alleged one child in particular, a 14-year-old boy, bore the brunt of Hyler’s toxic — and often violent — parenting.
The teen, who was purposefully “isolated” from the foster family, was choked with a dog chain and sliced with a kitchen knife, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com.
In one incident, Hyler allegedly jammed a knife into the boy’s head with such force, it remained lodged there temporarily.
“She cut him on the arms, the head, made him sleep on a concrete floor — a dirty floor,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson described at a press conference on Monday.
Once, Hyler used a set of needle-nose pliers and a hammer to chip the boy’s teeth, investigators stated. Other times, she stripped him “naked” and hosed him down outside because he wasn’t allowed to take baths in the home, according to the criminal complaint. The child was allegedly “starved” — and punished if he was caught sneaking food. He slept on the home’s filthy floor “without pillows or blankets.”
“I’m not making this up,” Johnson said. “It’s incredible what people can do to other people. It really is. It’s so disturbing.”
Hyler threatened to “kill” the boy — and his foster siblings — if the abuse was ever reported, investigators said. If they were removed from her care, she warned she’d “find them.” She allegedly called the teen a “stupid bastard,” and told him his birth mother didn’t “want” him.
The child, who was supposedly yanked out of school and homeschooled by Hyler to mask the suspected abuse, Johnson said. He lived with Hyler for seven and a half years.
“She abused this child pretty severely and then took him out of school. ... She knew if she sent him to school, obviously someone would report it,” Johnson said.
Hyler was arrested on May 8 on suspicion of aggravated child abuse. All four of her foster children are now in the custody of Florida’s Florida Department of Children and Families, law enforcement said. Hyler likely faces additional charges.
“More charges are pending for sure,” Johnson stated.
Detectives have since interviewed other children who lived in Hyler’s home and have either grown up or left. Hyler’s husband isn’t currently facing any charges in the case. The Department of Children and Family Services had conducted welfare checks on the home in the past, according to the arrest report.
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff said it’s one of the most haunting cases of child abuse he’s seen in his nearly four decades in law enforcement.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad things but this is pretty bad,” Johnson said.
At times, the career crimefighter appeared to fight back his emotions while discussing the investigation.
“As a father it pisses me off, is what it does,” he said. “Somebody that can do that to another human is bad enough but you start doing that to a child? We take it personally.”
Hyler is being held on a $100,000 bond, jail records show.
“She’s where she belongs and hopefully she stays in jail,” Johnson added.
Hyler doesn’t appear to have a past criminal history in Santa Rosa County. Her next scheduled court date is June 11, court records show. Julie Comerford Wells, Hyler’s public defender, declined to comment on Wednesday.
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