Mother, stepfather accused of refusing to feed boys; twin boys, 16, both weighed less than 100 lbs.

A mother and stepfather were charged Thursday with child neglect and abuse after police say they refused to feed their 16-year-old twin boys.
 
Doctors who examined the boys say one weighed 94 pounds and the other just 84 pounds. Doctors estimate for their age they should weigh at least 135 pounds.
 
Jamie Hicks, 43, the mother, faces two counts each of child neglect and aggravated child abuse.
 
Vernon Lovell, 53, the stepfather, faces two counts of child neglect.
 
They could face more charges as the investigation continues, according to Tampa Police Department.  Detectives are waiting on medical test results on the six other children in the house.
 
The investigation began when Hicks called police Tuesday to report two of her children missing, police said. Her 10-year-old and 13-year-old boys were found a short time later walking on U.S. 41 near County Line Road.
 
The boys were brought back home, but police did not suspect abuse. According to detectives, the children were all dressed, none had broken bones and there was food in the home.
 
When police tried questioning the children, they reportedly shied away and appeared afraid.

"What was so disturbing about this case, as you peeled back the layers of the onion, the stories that poured out are truly chilling," said Laura McElroy, Tampa Police Department spokeswoman.

McElroy said all eight children were interviewed separately and their stories were consistent.

During interviews, detectives learned the mother had refused to give food to her twin teenage boys. The boys would reportedly steal food and their mother would stick her finger down their throat to cause them to vomit it back up as a punishment, police said.
 
The Department of Children and Families has put the children in foster care.
 
"All of the children in separate interviews gave consistent accounts they had been slapped, choked to the point of unconsciousness, kicked, were forced to eat old and moldy food and when they threw it up, the mother would force them to eat their vomit," McElroy said.
 
McElroy said the abuse likely went unnoticed because the children were home schooled at the family's residence on East Annie Street. The children were reportedly rarely left outside.
 
Investigators plan to look into any past history the family may have had with DCF.
 
Neighbors told ABC Action News there was no indication abuse was taking place. In addition, they thought the mother was running a day care facility out of the house.
 
Marietta Roboson, who has lived on the block for 10 years, described the couple as friendly and said she never suspected anything, noting the mother would buy food out of a food truck that frequently drove by and even had a gardener.
 
"I would have put the authorities on her. I sure would have," Roboson said.
 
The allegations upset neighbors, all of whom said they were unaware.
 
Both Hicks and Lovell are out on bond. They did not answer a phone call Friday from ABC Action News.
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