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Florida children's book author, husband arrested on aggravated child abuse charges

Deputies say one child told them she was punished because she "couldn't stop sinning."
Credit: Seminole County Sheriff's Office

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Arrest reports received from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office detail the abuse three children were allegedly subjected to by their parents. 

As a result, investigators say a Florida children's book author and her husband were arrested on child abuse charges. 

Deputies say the investigation began when they responded to a call at a Winter Park hospital on New Year's Day about an "undetermined medical issue" for an 8-year-old girl. The girl was critically ill and had to be taken to another hospital, authorities said. 

According to an arrest report, deputies spoke with 39-year-old Joseph Wolfthal and learned two other children, a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, lived with him and his wife Jennifer. Deputies said in the report they arrested Joseph based on their conversation with him. And, the two other children were taken to the hospital, the arrest report said. 

The report says one child is still hospitalized with a staph infection, sepsis, renal and liver failure, open infected wounds on both legs and pneumonia in both lungs. Another child was released from the hospital one week after the initial incident after the child was treated for skin infections, open wounds, bruising and malnutrition, deputies say. 

And, the third child was released two weeks after the initial incident after being treated for open wounds, skin infections, malnutrition and undergoing "re-feeding" during her hospital stay, the report said. 

Both children released from the hospital were then put in the care of a foster family, deputies noted in the arrest report. 

During interviews with two of the children, deputies say in the report the 11-year-old girl told them she didn't want to go back to her parents because they punished her because she "couldn't stop sinning." Deputies wrote the child was told this by her parents every time they punished her. 

Deputies say the girl would be punished for not going to the bathroom at "the proper times," wetting the bed, not doing her exercises right and not eating what she was given, according to the report. Deputies wrote the food given was a mixture of bran flakes cereal, water and vegetable puree. And, the girl reportedly told deputies she would occasionally be fed twice a day and sometimes wouldn't eat until late in the afternoon. 

Deputies say they also found more than 1,100 paragraphs written saying "my body stays flat on the bed at all times. I was never given permission to move or say anything. Now I get to write about this along with everything else. I'm a fool." Deputies also say they found more than 10 other sayings written multiple times at the house. 

However, the children's "main" punishment happened nearly every night, two of the children reportedly told deputies, where cold water would be poured over them while they laid in bed. Deputies say neither bed had any bedding, only a plastic mattress cover and pillow. Deputies say one child couldn't tell them what she had done wrong before she was punished.

One child reportedly told deputies she hadn't interacted with her siblings or any other adults for "several years." Deputies note in their report the children's bedrooms would lock from the outside. 

Jennifer was listed as a "homeschool teacher," according to an arrest report. She is credited as the author of the children's book "A Real Friend," according to Amazon and other reports.

Both she and her husband were charged with child neglect with great bodily harm, aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment of a child under 13 and committing aggravated abuse. They are being held with no bond.

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