Woman accused in 'horrible child abuse case'

Josh Cascio reports

- A Citrus County woman is being held in a Citrus County jail without bond accused in a horrible case of child abuse.

UPDATE: Former teacher, cleared in abuse case, tries to rebuild

Detectives said it began when they searched for a 12-year-old boy in a runaway case. Once he was found, he told detectives he was being abused by Denise Hallowell, 54.

Detectives said the boy reported being locked in a bedroom most of the time with only an air mattress and a bucket to use as a toilet. He told detectives he went without food or water for several days at a time and was forced to clean the bathroom naked.

Detectives said Hallowell abused the boy by beating him, even kicking and hitting him in the groin. He had bruises on his arms and hips and scratches on his face and neck, according to the arrest affidavit.

"What looked like a typical runaway case - turned into a horrible child abuse case.  We are just so thankful that this boy trusted us enough to come forward about what was going on inside his home," said Captain Dave DeCarlow. 

When detectives searched the home, they found the windows of the boys room nailed shut and the door locked from the outside. They also found the bucket in the boy's room as reported by the boy.

During an interview with detectives, Hallowell denied punching or kicking the boy in the groin, but admitted to spanking him. She told detectives she locked the boy in his room and nailed the windows shut because she didn't want him to run away again. She said she removed the items from his room because the boy caused damage to his room and was out of control.

According to the Citrus County School Board, Hallowell was employed by Citrus County Schools until last year, where she left and went to work at a charter school for at risk children.

The boy has been removed from the home.

Hallowell is being charged with aggravated child abuse.

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