Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

More charges for Tampa mother accused of abusing, starving children

TAMPA — Authorities have filed additional charges against Jamie Hicks, the Tampa mother accused of starving and abusing at least seven of her children during the past eight years.

The latest medical reports confirmed allegations of abuse by Hicks' 12- and 13-year-old boys, Tampa police said.

The 13-year-old had bruises over his body "consistent with being hit and kicked," police said. The 12-year-old has permanent scarring on the roof of his mouth, which police said is due to Hicks repeatedly sticking her fingers down his throat to force him to vomit.

Last week, police arrested Hicks, 43, saying she starved her 16-year-old twin boys, forcing them to eat their vomit and punishing them for "stealing" food. She'd hit them with various objects, choked them to the point of unconsciousness, held their heads under water and fed them spoiled food, police wrote in an arrest affidavit March 27.

The twins were underweight, malnourished and had to be hospitalized, police said. They remained in the hospital Wednesday.

The state last week took protective custody of Hicks' eight children — the twins, boys ages 4, 7, 10, 12 and 13, and a 2-year-old girl.

It wasn't the first time such action was taken, Tampa police said Wednesday. In 1996 in Utah, Hicks' parental rights for three of her children were severed.

Those are different, older children than her eight in Tampa.

Police did not have more details and reports from Utah were unavailable.

Last week, the Florida Department of Children and Families said it had previously investigated Hicks' family, though the agency would not share details or say when the case was opened or closed.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman said that, in Florida, child protection investigators run background checks on parents, which can include histories from other states.

"If we know the parents live in another state and there may be concern of prior issues, the investigators will often reach out to that state's child welfare departments to obtain additional information on any prior reports or investigations," wrote DCF spokeswoman Natalie Harrell.

When it comes to Hicks, the department says it can't share many details due to state law. However, investigators reached out to child welfare departments "in all known states where the parents resided" in the previous DCF case, Harrell wrote.

"The information obtained was included in the investigation and taken into account," she stated.

Still, the DCF case was closed. Tampa police say they didn't get involved until March 25, when Hicks reported two of her children missing from her home, just north of Sulphur Springs.

Police saw "red flags" and investigated further. Seven of the children (each one except the 2-year-old) separately shared consistent stories of abuse, police said.

Neighbors said last week they didn't suspect abuse inside the four-bedroom, yellow concrete block house.

Hicks homeschooled her children and played with them in their well-manicured yard, though she'd never let them venture outside the metal fence at 1414 E Annie St.

Still in jail, Hicks now faces another count of aggravated child abuse, two more counts of child neglect and one count of child abuse.

Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony.

Authorities also initially charged the twin's stepfather, Vernon Courtney Lovell, 53, with two counts of child neglect.

Police say he knew of the abuse and never reported it.

On Wednesday, he remained in jail as authorities levied two additional charges against him — two counts of child neglect with great bodily harm, a second-degree felony.

Times news researchers John Martin and Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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