SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – State prosecutors formally charged a Seminole County husband and wife with child abuse, neglect and false imprisonment Thursday after investigators say one of their adoptive daughters was hospitalized in January due to severe abuse.
Jennifer Wolfthal, the author of the children’s book “A Real Friend,” and her husband Joseph Wolfthal are each charged with three counts of aggravated child abuse, neglecting a child with great bodily harm and imprisoning a child. Jennifer Wolfthal was arrested Jan. 1 and Joseph Wolfthal was arrested Jan. 25. Both have pled not guilty to the charges.
The Seminole-Brevard County State Attorney’s office filed formal charges against the couple on Thursday. If convicted, they face life in prison.
The investigation began when an 8-year-old girl was taken to a hospital on Jan. 1 in critical condition. She was suffering from a staph infection, sepsis, renal and liver failure, open and infected wounds, skin infections, bruising, pneumonia in her lungs and malnutrition, according to the affidavit.
Deputies removed a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl from the home and sought medical care for them as well. The children described being locked in their rooms and extensive punishment, including being forced to write “I’m a fool” over and over, records show. The girl had scars and bruises all over her body, deputies said.
A trial date has not been set and the Wolfthals are restricted from contact with their children and each other.