A Sarasota, Florida, doctor and his wife were arrested today after authorities accused them of tying their 12-year-old daughter up with zip ties and leaving her in a playhouse for hours on end.
Fox 13 reports that when a young girl showed up on the front of a man’s house on December 27, with zip ties around her legs and ankles, he immediately called authorities, suspecting the child escaped a kidnapping. When police arrived, however, they learned that it was the girl’s own parents, Victoria and Dr. Eugenio Erquiaga, that allegedly tied their daughter up.
The frightened 12-year-old explained that her parents would regularly bind her hands and ankles together and put her in a “playhouse,” where she often urinated on herself after her parents locked her inside by blocking the door with a piece of wood. When authorities went to the child’s residence, they noticed a 5-by-7 foot playhouse that looked inviting from the outside, but once they opened its door, they noticed a strong smell of urine and a window locked shut.
According to Lt. Joe Giasone of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section, the young girl had no choice but to soil herself while in the playhouse, as her parents left her alone and tied up for long periods of time.
“She wasn’t allowed to leave the playhouse to use the restroom. She’d have to do all that inside the house…inside the little playhouse.”
The parents have six other children. Three of them are adopted, including the 12-year-old girl. When questioned, each child confirmed that the girl was tied up and sent to the playhouse for discipline. The kids also revealed that the girl would often have to eat her dinner while sitting on the floor of the dining room. All seven children were removed from the family home by Florida’s Department of Children and Families.
New York Daily News reports that Dr. Erquiaga and his wife attempted to defend their actions by explaining that their daughter was being punished for bad behavior. They told authorities that the girl had behavioral issues they were trying to correct, which included violent outbursts that put their other children in danger.
The parents also explained they they used an “eye hook,” which they attached to the zip ties when tying the child up, to ensure that she didn’t destroy the playhouse. They admitted they saw this type of punishment used by police on a television show, but Giasone said that even if the parents thought the punishment was appropriate, it’s illegal to confine and cage a child.
“The bottom line is the law says you can’t restrain or cage a child.”
Regardless, the family’s attorney, Derek Byrd, warned that the public shouldn’t be too quick to judge the couple until they find out for sure if the parents actually committed a crime.
“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. The question is, is it criminal to handle a problematic child that way?”
Dr. Erquiaga works as a radiologist with Radiology Associates of Venice. He’s been with the medical group for the past 20 years, and per colleague and group administrator Michael Kimball, the doctor does a wonderful job at work.
“He’s been a good physician. I look forward to the justice system taking its course.”
The Florida doctor and his wife turned themselves to the Sarasota Police Department, but both bailed out on $5,000 each. They face felony charges of aggravated child abuse.
[Photo Courtesy of the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office]