LAKELAND, Fla. - Four people were arrested in Polk County for using a stun gun to discipline as many as nine children in the home in a case that Sheriff Grady Judd called "torture" for the children.
Deputies said all four adults were living in the same Lakeland home and that the two males were dating the two females.
Deputies said they were called to the home in mid-July on suspicion of child abuse. The Department of Children and Families removed two children from the home after multiple bruises and two-prong burns, apparent stun gun injuries, were found on the children.
When the suspects were questioned, deputies said they lied about the injuries and what caused them, denied having the stun gun, and then lied and told investigators that the children found the stun gun and used it on each other.
Deputies arrested Eduardo Vazquez, 22, William Torres-Morales, 22, Elizabeth Tarvin, 33, and Veronica Sanchez, 32, Thursday on multiple charges including aggravated child abuse, failure to report child abuse, and negligent child abuse.
Investigators found through interviews that nine children, ages 7 through 13, were injured with a stun gun by Vazquez and Torres-Morales as a form of discipline. The children were also forced to do pushups and when a child was not able to do one, the child was zapped with the stun gun, deputies said. "One of the children said they weren't allowed to cry or say that it hurt, because to do that would cause more discipline," said Sheriff Judd.
One of the children told investigators he lost feeling in his legs and eventually ran to a neighbor's house to finally ask for help. Deputies said the children were injured with the stun gun at least 36 separate times over the course of about a month.
"A real man doesn't hurt a baby or a child. These aren't real men. These are cowards. These are deviants. These are people that need to go to prison for a very long time for torturing children," said Sheriff Judd.
Both women admitted they knew Vazquez and Torres-Morales were using stun guns to discipline the children but did nothing to stop it in fear of losing their relationships or losing the children.
"It was absolutely torture. It's torture of these children because they were stunning them over and over and over for no reason. No reason at all. Can you imagine that environment?" said Judd.