Couple beat child, kept him in bathroom, deputies say

Pair, who have 6 other children, charged with child abuse

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - A Clay County couple are accused of mentally and physically abusing a child under their care last year, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Misti Tomlinson, 27, and Stephen Terry, 32, are each accused of child abuse in arrest warrants from Clay County.

The boy's name and age have been blacked out from the arrest report, which says he moved in with Tomlinson and Terry and their six children in January 2017.

According to the report, three of the children are Tomlinson's biological children from a previous relationship, and the other three are Tomlinson and Terry's biological children together.

The report accused Tomlinson and Terry of beating the child with belts and shoes “to the point of visible injury.”

Deputies said the couple also forced the boy to stay in a bathroom for long periods of time, even though they knew he was afraid of the room because of rats.

He attended elementary school in the small town of Melrose in Putnam County, and staff there were interviewed during the abuse investigation, the report showed.

The report says Kids First, an organization that works with foster families, was involved in that investigation, but the Department of Children and Families said Tomlinson and Terry were not foster parents.

Neither Terry nor Tomlinson are employed, according to the arrest report.

According to the report, when a worker with Kids First arrived at the home during one visit, the child “was in the bathroom and had to be retrieved out of the bathroom by the parents.”

An investigation into the alleged abuse began in December, and the couple were into custody Tuesday.

Terry's bond was set at $50,003, and Tomlinson's bond was set at $25,003. 

News4Jax learned the family often spent time at a relative's home in Florahome, in Putnam County. A neighbor there said the couple could often be seen playing with the children and there never seemed to be any problems.

"I’ve never seen them be mean to the kids or anything," Kathy Frederick said.

DCF confirmed that all the children in the case have been safely placed with relatives.

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