A Tavares High School teaching assistant and his wife, a church counselor, have been arrested on child abuse charges after police say their 11-year-old daughter was so malnourished officers thought she was 7 years old.
45-year-old Jacqueline Bailey and her husband, 46-year-old John Bailey, were arrested on Friday after police say they starved the 11-year-old and kept the refrigerator and pantry door locked so she wouldn't be able to get food.
Department of Children and Families officials said the girl weighs approximately 40 pounds and remains hospitalized. DCF officials said on Tuesday that she is now eating what she wants and gaining weight, adding that she's "very thankful" to be away from home.
According to officials, the girl's father claimed she had a genetic disorder that made his daughter want to eat, even when she wasn't hungry. A physician, however, said that wasn't the case.
Police said the Baileys also made the girl stand in a bucket of bleach, causing chemical burns. They also monitored her every move with a door chime outside of her bedroom that would alert them whenever she left and forced her to do jumping jacks or run the stairs if she fell asleep too early.
Neighbors tell Local 6 they were shocked to hear the abuse charges.
“No child deserves to be treated that way that's definitely not the way any good parent would treat their children,” says Karin Carroll.
19-year-old Colton Baldwin says he would always talk with John Bailey at Tavares High School.
“Mr. Bailey was really cool, it doesn't sound like something he would do, but you never know,” he said.
The 11-year-old girl used to be home-schooled and recently began attending school, so DCF officials said they do not have any concerns about failures to report the abuse.
Neighbors and students say its the last thing they expected from what they thought was a wholesome family.
John Bailey not only worked with children, but is a former law enforcement officer while his wife served as a counselor at Citadel of Hope Church in Leesburg.
“It's a sad day. You hate to see a little child abused by a family that you hope would take care of their own kids,” says Aaron Pederson, who lives across the street.
Both Jacqueline Bailey, the girl's stepmother, and John Bailey have posted bond. John Bailey has been suspended from his position at Tavares High School.
The girl has been put in DCF protective custody. Two other children lived in the home and did not show any visible signs of abuse or neglect, DCF officials said. They remain with a relative at this time.
The DCF said it doesn't know why the girl was targeted and her siblings were not, but they said they often see abuse in mixed-family situations.