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Sarasota couple accused of aggravated child abuse

Eugenio Erquiaga
Eugenio Erquiaga
Published Jan. 10, 2016

A husband and wife in Sarasota have been charged with aggravated child abuse of their 12-year-old adopted daughter, who authorities say was kept locked for hours inside a 5- by 7-foot playhouse.

Eugenio Erquiaga, a radiologist, and his wife, Victoria, a lawyer, were arrested Wednesday. Authorities allege that they used zip ties to restrain the girl's ankles and wrists before locking her inside the cramped enclosure for hours on end, 10News WTSP reported.

The playhouse could be barred shut with a piece of wood, had most of its windows screwed shut and smelled of urine, according to CBS-affiliate WINK.

"She wasn't allowed to leave the playhouse to use the restroom," Sarasota County sheriff's Lt. Joe Giasone told WTSP. "She'd have to do all that inside."

Authorities said the couple told investigators that their daughter was prone to violent outbursts, and the restraints were used to protect the family's six other children, according to WTSP. They came up with the method of restraint recently, after seeing zip ties used in a television show about police, authorities.

The couple's attorney, Derek Byrd, urged the public to withhold judgment about them.

"I'm certain any people in the public would say that's not the way they would handle it, and they're entitled to their opinion," he told WTSP. "The question is, is it criminal to handle a problematic child that way?"

The situation may have escaped authorities' attention if the girl hadn't fled and found her way to a neighbor's home.

The 12-year-old girl, who was adopted, was part of a large group of a biological and adopted children in the Erquiaga household, according to CBS News. In addition to two other adopted children, the family includes four biological children from 5 to 13 years old.

The couple's other children are in custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, but authorities said none of them have reported abuse or neglect to authorities, CBS reported.