TAMPA (WFLA) — A man and a woman were arrested in Tampa Sunday morning after investigators learned they had been handcuffing a child in a closet 16 hours a day for the last few weeks.
Hillsborough County deputies responded to a Tampa home while looking for a missing child. They located the boy, who had been hiding in the home, and cleared the call.
A short time later, deputies returned to the home to conduct an investigation into potential child abuse. The boy told deputies he had been handcuffed and forced to stand in a closet as punishment. He said this has been happening every day for about 16 hours a day for the past few weeks.
While talking to detectives, John Hernandez, 41, reportedly admitted to handcuffing the boy and putting him in the closet from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. as punishment.
Natasha Dabbs, 37, told detectives she knew the punishment was taking place and did not try to prevent it. Dabbs said this has been happening since Christmas.
Hernandez and Dabbs were arrested and booked in the Orient Road Jail.
“The actions of this couple are reprehensible,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “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.”