A Florida radiologist and his wife face child abuse charges after deputies discovered they routinely confined their 12-year-old daughter using zip ties inside a "glorified cage," according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
At 3:09 p.m. Dec. 27, deputies responded to a neighbor's house in the 1000 block of Thicket Lane in Sarasota to a possible kidnapping, according to the arrest report. The 12-year-old girl had knocked on the front door with zip ties around her hands and ankles and told the neighbor her parents had tied her up and abandoned her at the home.
Detectives called the Florida Department of Children and Families, and a child protective investigator and supervisor came out to interview the victim.
The girl told the investigator her parents would often restrain her with zip ties and put her in her playhouse for long periods of time, a detective wrote in a warrant affidavit. The door would be secured so she couldn't get out and she was often be forced to go to the bathroom in her pants, she told investigators.
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The girl “also explained that when she gets angry her parents will restrain her by securing her hands and feet together and she demonstrated being 'hog-tied' in front of her body," the detective wrote.
The parents, Eugenio Erquiaga, 51, and Victoria Erquiaga, 53, are each charged with aggravated child abuse. The Erquiagas turned themselves in Wednesday morning and were held without bond at Sarasota County jail.
Eugenio Erquiaga is a radiologist with Radiology Associates of Venice and Englewood.
Continuing the investigation, detectives and DCF investigators went to the Erquiaga home. The couple confirmed they had recently begun restraining the girl with zip ties after seeing it on a "police episode" on television, a detective reported. They said she regularly ate with the family, oftentimes at the table, but other times she was forced to sit on the floor next to the table.
"Mr. and Mrs. Erquiaga explained that zip ties are kept on [the girl's] wrists and ankles at all times so that she could be immediately restrained whenever necessary," the detective wrote. "They explained that (the girl) would have violent outbursts without provocation and they believed she was delighted by the chaos she would create. They believed she needed to be restrained to protect her from herself and to protect the other seven children living within the home."
The Erquiagas escorted the investigators and detectives to a playhouse in the corner of a loft where the girl sleeps.
The door to the 5-foot-long by 7-foot-wide by 7-foot-tall playhouse could be barred shut by a large piece of wood. All but one window had been screwed shut and it reeked of urine. The wooden floor is discolored from being soiled repeatedly, the detective reported.
"The only working window is located on the side of the structure that is approximately six inches from the wall of the home, making it impossible to escape," the detective wrote.
The parents told detectives an "eye hook" inside the playhouse was used to secure the girl's zip ties and keep her from kicking the playhouse apart. A mattress the girl slept on inside the playhouse was on the balcony drying out because the she had supposedly soiled it.
"The 'playhouse' is ascetically pleasing from the outside but can only be described as a 'glorified cage' when examined closer," the detective wrote.
Heavy duty zip ties 18 inches long and about a third of an inch wide were found inside the home, including an unopened bag.
The girl's siblings confirmed their sister was regularly zip tied and confined to the playhouse. All children were taken into protective custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to the sheriff's office.