LAKELAND, Fla. – Two Lakeland men are accused of using a stun gun to discipline children in a horrible case of child abuse. Deputies say two women who live with the men knew about the abuse, but did not stop it.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Eduardo Vazquez, age 22; his girlfriend Elizabeth Tarvin, age 33; William Torres-Morales, age 22; and his girlfriend, Veronica Sanchez, age 32.
Detectives say the four live together in a home on Skye Place.
The investigation began in mid July when the sheriff’s office received a referral from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) about allegations of child abuse. The referral said that nine children ranging in age from 7 to 13 were possibly being disciplined with a handheld stun gun.
Two children, ages 8 and 11, were removed from the home by DCF. it was discovered they had “patterned bruises and burns” and multiple “two-prong” burns over their buttocks. A medical examination found one child had 15 two-prong burns over his buttocks, which investigators said are consistent with the effects of a stun gun.
Detectives got permission from Veronica Sanchez to check the other children for injuries. Detectives located the same “two-prong” marks on five additional children that were consistent with the original victims injuries.
During questioning, investigators say Torres originally told a sheriff’s deputy that he owned a stun gun and the children had found it and were using it on each other. According to the report, Torres later admitted he had lied, and that he and Vasquez had been using the stun gun for the past two to three weeks to discipline the children.
Vasquez told investigators he and Torres were making all the male children do push ups and would use the stun gun on any child who could not do one.
According to the report, Veronica Sanchez and Elizabeth Tarvin both admitted they were aware that the men were using the stun gun on the children.
The four face charges of aggravated child abuse, negligent child abuse and failure to report child abuse, among other charges.
Sanchez is being held on $62,000 bond. The other three are being held on bonds of $455,000 or more.