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Children flee adoptive parents, describe home of horrors

By Emily Mavrakis

Staff writer

Two Gainesville children — ages 8 and 10 — who fled to safety last week say they were repeatedly hit, fed only bread and water along with table scraps, 'drowned' in a bathtub, and burned or shocked by their adoptive parents.

Samuel Earl Hollie, 29, and Brandi Rae Hollie, 33, were charged Wednesday with aggravated child abuse and two counts of child neglect.

Last Friday, they dropped off the two children at their uncle’s house before going to work last week, according to a Gainesville police arrest report.

The children ran away from the uncle’s house to a nearby apartment complex, the report said. They remained for several hours before a concerned resident called law enforcement.

The children told police they didn’t know where their parents were and didn’t want to go home because they had been abused.

The children, in the Hollies' custody since 2015, told investigators they had been hit, that one of them was 'drowned' in a bathtub with water poured over his head and that both had been burned or shocked with what they believed was a Taser, in addition to other abuses.

The children described being fed a bread-and-water diet with occasional scraps from the Hollies’ dinners. Police reported that the children appeared malnourished.

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A medical exam revealed severe scarring, bruising and disfigurement to both children's bodies, the report said.

Authorities contacted the children's previous foster parents, who said the children did not have any bodily injuries while under their care. Medical exams from 2015, before they were in the Hollies' care, showed no bruising or other injuries, the report said.

The Hollies told police that they had used corporal punishment, but said scarring on one child was due to his life before they were part of it. They also said other scars on the children — which police described as 'distinct circular scars' consistent with marks from a Taser — were from bedbugs.

Captain Jorge Campos with Gainesville Police Department said such extreme abuse cases are “very rare,” and described the photographs taken as part of the investigation as “extremely shocking.”

“Any parent that would see them, it would make them sick to their stomach,” he said. Outside the Hollie residence in northwest Gainesville, a basketball hoop faces the road at the edge of the property. However, a neighbor said she seldom sees the two elementary-school aged children who live there playing outside.

Instead, the only activity she had seen outside the house was an adult man and a friend lifting weights in the carport.

The neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said a man, woman, the two children and an infant live at the residence. The woman used to take walks in the neighborhood with the children when she was pregnant, the neighbor said, but she hadn’t seen her do that in several months.

Under Florida law, the Department of Children and Families is not able to release any information on whether the Hollies had any prior issues concerning children in their care, a spokesman said. The children were home-schooled, the police report said.

The Partnership For Strong Families, a private, nonprofit organization that works with the Florida Department of Children and Families, initiates foster and adoptive services throughout North Central Florida.

PFSF Adoption Director Kim Johnson said the agency has a rigorous vetting process for potential foster and adoptive parents, including a 10-week training program, home study and background check with references.

During the first 90 days after an adoption is completed, a post-placement supervisor visits the home monthly. After that period, the only contact initiated by the Partnership is a oneyear checkup phone call.

The Hollies remained in the county jail Thursday, with bail set at $300,000 each.

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