TAMPA — A Tampa man who admitted to handcuffing a boy and locking him in a closet each day for hours at a time has been arrested on an aggravated child abuse charge, deputies said.
John Hernandez, 41, was arrested Sunday after admitting to handcuffing the boy and putting him in a closet from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. as punishment for behavioral issues, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Natasha Dabbs, 37, was also arrested after she told detectives she knew the punishment was happening and did nothing to prevent it. The Sheriff’s Office said Hernandez and Dabbs are a couple.
Investigators say they discovered the abuse after deputies responded to a Tampa home on Sunday for reports of a missing child. Deputies found the boy hiding inside the home and cleared the call.
A short time later, deputies returned to the home to conduct an investigation into potential child abuse. The boy told deputies he has been handcuffed and forced to stand in a closet as “punishment.” The boy said the punishment had been happening every day for about 16 hours a day for the past few weeks, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Hernandez then admitted to detectives he punished the boy by handcuffing him and locking him in the closet, deputies said. He was being held Monday without bail in the Hillsborough County jail.
Dabbs told detectives the punishment has been happening since Dec. 25. She was arrested on charges of failure to report child abuse and child neglect. She also was being held without bail.
Citing Marsy’s Law, the Sheriff’s Office did not release the age of the boy or his relationship to Dabbs or Hernandez. The voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution was meant to protect crime victims but deprives the public of information long available under Florida’s public records law.
Jail records list a home address for Dabbs and Hernandez at 1250 Skipper Road, which is the Jasmine Terrace apartment complex.