BROOKSVILLE – A year into their prison sentence for abusing their foster children, Arthur and Lori Allain are being sued by their former ward for a nine-figure sum.
John Joseph Edwards Jr. is also suing the Department of Children and Families’ private arm, claiming the agency’s caseworker failed to recognize the signs of neglect.
On Thursday, Edwards’ attorney, Gary Gossett, likened the conditions suffered by his client to a Nazi death camp. The lawsuit says Edwards underwent “physical and mental torture,” to include starvation, beatings, head shaving and “unlawful confinement.”
“You can’t just walk away from that kind of stuff,” Gossett said by phone from Sebring.
Gossett filed the lawsuit Monday and has yet to hear if the Allains have retained an attorney.
Arthur Allain is serving a 25-year prison sentence in Wakulla County in the Panhandle for aggravated child abuse; Lori Allain is serving the same sentence at Lowell Correctional Institute in Ocala.
A message left with a spokeswoman for Kids Central Inc. was not returned.
The Allains were arrested in 2004, when the sheriff’s office learned that DCF had taken custody of a malnourished girl. At 10 years old, the girl weighed only 29 pounds and her ribs were clearly visible.
Reports at the time said that her half-brother, Edwards, slipped food under her door two or three times a week. Further investigation revealed that she was locked in her room and had only a paint bucket as a toilet.
The Allains refuted the charges, saying the girl was already malnourished when they received her and that she had an eating disorder.
Her brother, who turned 18 in November, didn’t receive as much media attention, but Gossett said his treatment was just as shabby.
Without prior knowledge of the case, Gossett said he wouldn’t have believed Edwards when the victim first discussed what had happened to him.
“This is about basic human rights,” Gossett said.
As the Allains’ case wound its way through the judicial system, the spotlight also turned to DCF. Investigations were opened to determine how the abuse could have continued for so long if case workers were supposedly making monthly visits.
Gossett said the discovery portion leading up to a jury trial will determine when DCF turned over the case to Kids Central, the nonprofit company that serves the Fifth Judicial Circuit, which includes Hernando County.
The lawsuit specifically names Cathy Kelly as a caseworker who was allegedly negligent in her duties.
It’s Gossett’s hope that this lawsuit will bring attention to any other children in the foster care system who are undergoing similar treatment.
“The system failed at many levels,” he said.
Gossett would not specify how much the lawsuit seeks in damages, but stated it was a nine-figure sum.
Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or [email protected]