Nikki Russell, 35, and Larry Russell, 39, were arrested after one of the children escaped from their home last week and told police and Department of Child Services investigators horror stories about the couple Ñ including allegations they bound and beat children, locked them in a dark room, doused them with urine and withheld food and water.
By TIM EVANS The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- A Terre Haute, Ind., couple are in custody, after being accused of beating, confining and starving children in their care, Terre Haute police said.
According to police, a teen, 17, who ran away from the home Friday after being bound, "back handed" across the face and his mouth covered with duct tape on Thanksgiving, described a horrifying tale of ongoing abuse and confinement at the hands of Larry and Nikki Russell.
"In my 19 years with the police force, I've never seen before what's been described by these children, the injuries they sustained and the condition in which they lived," said Terre Haute Assistant Police Chief Shawn Keen at a news conference.
The boy said he and some of the other children in the couple's care were bound and beaten. They were doused with urine. They were forced to go without food and water. One boy even described an incident in which the father forced another boy to apply IcyHot to his genitals and in his rectum.
On Thanksgiving, after three adopted boys ate a meager meal of two microwave burritos and a half glass of water, the hands of the oldest adopted boy, who is 17, were bound. He was "back handed" across the face. Blood flowed from his nose and down his cheek. Balled up socks were stuffed in his and his adopted brother's mouths, then covered with duct tape.
The teen broke out a window from his second-story room Friday and jumped to the ground. Looking for help, he soon made it to Union Hospital, where officials called police and the Department of Child Services to investigate a possible case of abuse.
Larry Russell, 39, and Nikki Russell, 35, were being held Tuesday in Vigo County Jail under $100,000 bond each. They face preliminary felony charges of criminal confinement and child neglect.
A report filed by Terre Haute Detective Travis Chesshir said the couple acknowledged some of the boy's allegations, but denied others.
While the teenage victim told police the Russells were his foster parents, child service's spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said the children were not wards of the state at the time. She could confirm that the Russells had been foster parents and had adopted the children earlier this year.
The whereabouts of the children was unclear Tuesday.
The boy told investigators abuse was a way of life in the home.
He said the couple tied him and the two other adopted boys to their beds with duct tape and a yellow rope, then locked the room from the outside so they could not get out. He added "the Russells also boarded up the windows and removed the light bulb from the room while he and his brothers were locked inside," Chesshir's report said.
The investigator wrote that he saw abrasions on the boy's wrists and ankles "consistent with being tied to a bed" and also observed the boy had a bloody nose and dried blood in his ear.
The Tribune Star in Terre Haute reported the boy, who weighed only 93 pounds, was barefoot when a motorist picked him up Friday and took him to the hospital.
After interviewing the boy at the hospital, investigators went to the couple's home. They reported finding "the yellow rope, locks on the doors and duct tape on (the boys') bed posts."
In an interview with police, Nikki Russell "advised that Larry was the one who had tied the boys up and she was the one who struck (the boy) in the face," Chesshir reported.
"Nikki admitted to pouring urine on the boys in the bath tub and admitted to her and Larry confining the boys in their room with the door padlocked from the outside," according to the detective's report.
The report said Nikki Russell also admitted she and her husband had deprived some of the children of food on several occasions.
Larry Russell told police he had locked some of the children in their room, but denied they were ever tied up and blamed his wife for depriving them of food.
Nikki and Larry Russell are scheduled to appear Wednesday in Vigo Superior Court.