Couple arrested for aggravated child abuse

Lakeland, Florida -- A Lakeland couple was arrested Thursday after a girl in their care called police on them and reported several instances of abuse against her and her brother.

Detectives say they the 12-year-old girl called police and told them 33-year-old Sean Pearson and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Jessica Rowland had locked her in a closet, shaved her head, and used other forms of "discipline" which left bruises on her. An investigation revealed the pair were abusing an 11-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl who were in their care.

During an interview with Pearson and Rowland, both reportedly told detectives the following:

- They would cover the girl's mouth with their hands when the girl screamed, because it "hurt their eardrums."

- They gave the girl Pearson's prescription Depakote on several occasions, knowing that it was illegal to do so, to "calm her down" because she "gets out of control." They would watch her because they knew she might pass out or stop breathing or have a rapid heartbeat from taking the adult prescription medication. If the girl refused to take the pills, they would force them down her throat.

- Pearson learned about forms of child discipline from reading books and "the military."

- Pearson disciplined both children by making them sit on a can of vegetables until their buttocks became numb.

- Pearson locked the children in the closet when they cried or became unruly.

- Pearson tied the girl's wrists together and then tied the cloth to a beam above her head as a form of discipline.

- Both encouraged the children to physically fight each other, and laughed at them or made fun of them when they refused.

Pearson and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Jessica Rowland of Lazy Lake Drive East in Lakeland, and charged both with six counts Aggravated Child Abuse (F-1) and one count False Imprisonment (F-1). Both Pearson and Rowland have been booked into the Polk County Jail, where they are being held on no bond until a first appearance hearing Friday afternoon.

Pearson has a prior arrest in 2005 for Sexual Battery by Suspect Over 18 on Victim Under 12 (charge downgraded to Child Abuse), and Child Abuse (direct-filed by SAO). He received probation.

The children are now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.


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