Two Hillsborough County parents are in jail accused of denying food to two of their children, along with other abuse Tampa Police described Friday as "cruel and bizarre."
Jamie Hicks, 43, and Vernon Lovell, 53, face child abuse and neglect charges.
Police said Hicks called them Tuesday to report her 13-year-old and 10-year-old children missing.
Later that evening, they were spotted walking along the side of U.S. 41.
During the course of the investigation, detectives said they found out that Hicks and Lovell were denying food to their two oldest boys, 16-year-old twin males.
Investigators said the teens were severely underweight.
Deputies arrested the parents and placed all eight of their children in protective custody. They said the other children gave consistent accounts of abuse in the home.
"They had been slapped. They had been choked to the point where they couldn't breathe. They had been kicked, punched in the stomach. Their head had been held underwater. They were forced to eat old and moldy food," said Laura McElroy, a Tampa Police spokesperson, adding the abuse was very severe and very cruel. "When they would throw [their food] up, their mother would make them eat their vomit."
Hicks is charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of child neglect. Lovell is charged with two counts of child neglect. Police said both could face more charges as the investigation continues.
All eight of the children have been placed in foster care.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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