TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A Terre Haute couple was arrested Friday, accused of what police called the worst case of child abuse they have seen.
Larry Russell, 39, and Nikki Russell, 35, each face three preliminary felony counts of Criminal Confinement and three preliminary felony counts of Neglect of a Dependent. Both are being held in the Vigo County Jail on $100,000 cash bond.
The case began when authorities responded to reports of a 17-year-old male walking barefoot near the intersection of 3rd Street and 8th Avenue. When police interviewed the teen, he told them he had escaped from his foster parents' home by breaking through a second-floor window and jumping out.
The 17-year-old, who weighed about 93 pounds, told police that the Russells, his foster parents, had tied him and two of his foster brothers to a metal bed using rope and tape. Investigators reported seeing abrasions on the teen's wrist and ankles. He told police he fled the home and planned to walk to the Vigo County Courthouse, where he hoped to find authorities who could help.
The teen also told authorities that the Russells had punished other children in the home in similar ways, by denying them food, beating them while restrained, confining the children to locked bedrooms, pulling hair and sometimes pouring urine over them. Police said these actions appeared to have been punishment for stealing food or bladder problems.
When speaking with investigators, Nikki Russell told police that Larry Russell had tied up the 17-year-old while she hit the juvenile in the face. She also admitted to pouring urine on the boys and duct-taping a "pull-up" undergarment onto one of the children, according to court documents.
Nikki Russell also told police that she and Larry Russell had confined the boys in a bedroom by padlocking their door from the outside, according to the same documents.
Larry Russell denied that the boys had ever been tied up, though he said he knew that Nikki Russell had duct-taped the pull-up to one child as punishment.
In all, police reported that five children lived in the Russells' home, ranging in age from ten to 17. Police said that all of the children attended school except for the 17-year-old.
When speaking about the case, Terre Haute Assistant Police Chief Shawn Keen said it's "probably the worst case, as far as the injuries, the conditions of the house, type of punishments—if not, torture—that I've ever seen."
Investigators said it is not yet clear whether any of the children had been adopted by the Russells, but they said one of the children was the couple's biological child. All five children have been taken into custody by the Department of Child Services, according to officials.
Authorities said it is also unclear how long the alleged abuse had taken place.
Larry and Nikki Russel are due back in court Wednesday.
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