Florida couple accused of locking boy in closet for 16 hours a day

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A Florida couple has been accused of disciplining a boy by handcuffing him in a closet for 16 hours a day since Christmas.

John Hernandez, 41, and Natasha Dabbs, 37, were arrested Sunday after authorities went to the home to locate a missing boy, whom they found hiding in the Tampa home, news station WFLA reported.

A short time later, authorities returned to the home to look into possible child abuse.

The boy told deputies he had been handcuffed and forced to stand in a closet for about 16 hours a day for the past few weeks.

When questioned by detectives, Hernandez admitted locking the boy in the closet from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. to punish him for behavioral issues, WFLA reported.

Dabbs also told authorities that the abuse had been happening since Christmas.

She admitted that while she was aware of the abuse, she did nothing to prevent it, authorities said.

Authorities did not release any information about the relationship between the couple and the boy due to a state law protecting victims.

Hernandez was charged with aggravated child abuse, while Dabbs faces charges for child neglect and failure to report child abuse.

“The actions of this couple are reprehensible,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement, WFLA reported.

“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.”

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