Dundee couple arrested after teen found beaten, suffering from severe malnutrition

Posted at 12:59 PM, Nov 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-21 18:54:09-05

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is investigating a severe case of child abuse in Dundee.

Kris Peters, 35, and Melissa Peters, 33, have been charged with aggravated child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, negligent child abuse and failure to report child abuse.

Melissa Peters also faces 2 counts of aggravated child abuse and Kris Peters faces 8 counts of aggravated child abuse.

The 17-year-old victim has been in the hospital for 5 days now and will need surgery to her feet and shoulder, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

According to court documents, on November 16, a 17-year-old girl was found hiding in a wooded area suffering from multiple wounds, including several open sores on the top of both of her feet, a stab wound on the top of her right shoulder and bruising on her right eye. She also had scratch marks on her back, stomach, legs, arms, both hands and a bruised swollen left eye.

"Just couldn't imagine something like that coming out of the woods." Michael Hickin, the man who found the teen said. "She said "Can you help me? I remember her saying "Can you help me?"

Hickin says he thought it was a joke at first, but when he saw the girl, he yelled for his mother to call 9-1-1.

The teen was transported to Winter Haven Hospital.

In addition to her wounds, she was severely malnourished, weighing only 86-pounds at the hospital  That is approximately 20-pounds under her ideal weight. She was also losing much of her hair. During the medical exam, doctors discovered that the teen also had a fractured left shoulder.

While in the hospital, the victim told deputies that she had been abused for several months. She explained that the sores on her feet were from being hit with a metal pipe and that she had been stabbed in the shoulder with a pink folding, pocket knife. She told deputies that she was kicked with black combat boots with silver studs on the side of them and she was hit with a white cable cord on her arms, legs, back and stomach.

The teen explained that food was kept from her and she had to steal food when the suspects were not watching. She told deputies that she wasn't allowed to sue the bathroom and she hadn't been allowed to bathe since March of 2016.

Sheriff Grady Judd says the pantry was locked inside of the home to keep her from getting any food. They would give her a Pop Tart from time to time.

"I can't imagine an environment where you would starve a child. I can't imagine an environment where you would beat a child, break a child's arm, stab a child, use a child for a punching bag, but that's what we saw." Judd said.

Judd says the child saw an opportunity to escape last week and ran as far as she could. He says the child would have died if she would not have gotten out of the home.

"She would not have been alive much longer had she not fled and run for her life." Judd said.

Since being found 5 days ago, the child has gained 11 pounds, according to Judd.

When deputies spoke to Kris and Melissa Peters, they told deputies that the wounds that the teen had sustained were self-inflicted.

According to the affidavit, the Peters were arrested after deputies conducted investigations and interviews into the case.

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