FORT PIERCE, FL — A Florida couple is accused of locking up and starving three teenagers inside their home for months in what investigators called a "horrific" case.
The sheriff's office held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the arrests of Oscar Torres, 40, and his 32-year-old wife Brittany Kirschenhofer of Port St. Lucie in the case.
The couple is accused of locking three teenagers, one 17-year-old and two 16-year-old twins, in their bedrooms for hours at a time and only fed sporadically throughout the day.
"There was a chain lock on the door to the bedroom shared by the three victims," Chief Deputy Brian Hester said. "The three teenage victims weighed well below the accepted standard for their ages."
Hester said there were a total of five children living inside the home. The three teens that were abused are children of Torres.
Detectives did not believe that the other two children were neglected or abused and were treated "much, much differently than the other three children."
Authorities said they were alerted of the case on Feb. 10 after an anonymous complaint.
Hester said Torres and Kirschenhofer claimed the locks on the teens' doors were used to keep their dogs contained and that all of the children could move freely in the home.
"Statements made by one of the victims indicated that some physical abuse did occur to at least one of the three victims," Hester said.
One of the teenage victims told detectives they had to "secretly scavenge for scraps of food."
Investigators said one of the children only weighed 50 pounds and was found hallucinating with loss of verbal communication, muscle control and other bodily functions.
"Their hip bones were protruding from the pelvic area and bones along the spine were pushing through the skin of their back with the beginning stages of an open sore," Hester said. "Medical evaluations all confirmed this condition was a direct result of malnutrition and required a feeding tube to try and gradually bring the child back to the appropriate level of nutrition for their age."
The sheriff’s office said the teenagers were attending virtual school and had not left the home since December.
The Florida Department of Children and Families decided to remove the children from the home on Feb. 22.
Hester said all three children are now safely in the care of their biological mother who was unaware of the abuse and isolated from the family for several years.
The other two children, ages 9 and 6, that were living inside the home are staying with other relatives, according to the sheriff's office. Investigators said Kirschenhofer is the biological mother of these two children.
"The details of this case are disturbing and some of the most appalling examples of child neglect that I have heard in my 26 years in law enforcement," Hester said.
The couple is being held without bond on three counts of child abuse and neglect.
To report a child abuse case, contact the Florida Department of Children and Families by calling 1-800-962-2873.