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Child abuse investigation continues

By Staff | Jul 21, 2016

Local law enforcement and state child protection agencies in Florida and Alabama continued their investigations Thursday into a Cape Coral couple accused of abusing their foster and adopted children.

Daniel Wayne Spurgeon, 47, and Jenise Rae Spurgeon, 52, both of Southeast 11th Place, were each charged Monday with 10 counts of cruelty toward child aggravated child abuse, according to records.

He was also charged with three counts of lewd lascivious behavior victim 12 years of age or older younger than 16 years of age offender 18 years of age older, as well as lewd lascivious behavior victim age 12 to 16 and sex assault by custodian sex battery victim 12 years of age under 18 years of age.

Jenise Spurgeon was released on Wednesday from the Lee County Jail on $300,000 bond.

As of Thursday, Daniel Spurgeon remained in custody at the jail on $495,000 bond.

According to a report, Cape police responded on Sunday to the Kentucky Fried Chicken at 2210 S. Del Prado Blvd. about intoxicated juveniles. The officers made contact with three girls – ages 16, 13 and 13 – who explained that they lived nearby with their adopted-foster parents and several other siblings.

During the investigation, authorities learned that Daniel Spurgeon had given them alcohol to drink and “been physically and sexually abusing many of the minors living in his residence,” the report states.

Police learned that the couple lived with: five adopted daughters, ages 11 to 16; three foster daughters, ages 11 to 13; and two foster sons, ages 8 and 9; along with three biological children, ages 10 to 15.

The report states that at least four of the adopted-foster girls had been victims of sexual assault and molestation. One victim said there had been only one incident in Cape Coral but there had been multiple incidents in their last home in Alabama.

A 19-year-old adopted daughter of the couple, who does not live in the home, came to the Cape when she learned of the investigation. She told police that if the girls alleged sexual abuse was occurring, she could confirm it was true. She stated that Daniel Spurgeon had molested her from the age of 12 to 16.

As of Thursday, the Florence Police Department in Florence, Alabama, was investigating.

“We were contacted by Cape Coral authorities on Tuesday,” spokesman Sgt. Brad Holmes said, adding that they were advised on the CCPD’s ongoing investigation and provided information on the case.

The department is trying to determine if the alleged crimes only happened in Florida.

“Or are there ties to the crimes in Alabama?” he asked.

Investigators are working with the Cape police, Florida Department of Families and Children and Alabama Department of Human Resources. If applicable, the department will seek to prosecute.

“Any time you have a crime that’s been alleged by a child, there’s a level of shock that’s involved,” Holmes said, adding that adopted and foster children are placed with families for protection and care.

“When allegations like this are made, we take them very seriously,” he said.

Holmes noted that laws are designed to protect children.

“We want to do everything in our power to bring justice to victims,” he said.

The department was waiting on the results of conversations that Florida DCF officials had with the children. It will then work with the Alabama DHR to establish a timeline and validate the allegations.

“Our primary focus right now is on the children,” Holmes said.

As of Thursday, all 13 of the children from the home had been sheltered.

“The foster children from Alabama have returned to their home state and are under the custody of local child protective services,” DCF spokeswoman Natalie Harrell said, adding that the rest are under the custody of the DCF. “We have opened a child protection investigation into the concerning allegations.”

Officials previously reported that no Florida foster children were placed with the family.

“The adopted and foster children in the home were placed with the family while they lived in Alabama,” Harrell stated in a previous email. “Since the five foster children were in the process of being adopted, they were allowed to move with the family from Alabama to Florida.”

The foster children were in the process of being adopted by the Spurgeons.

On Thursday, officials at the Alabama DHR could not comment on the department’s next steps.

“Due to Alabama child welfare confidentiality laws, there is nothing further that I am legally able to share with the public,” Barry Spear, spokesman for the Alabama DHR, said.

He reported that Alabama foster parents receive a board payment of $15 to $17 per day – based on the age of the foster child – for each child in their care. There is no set number of children per home.

“Each foster family is evaluated and their home is also evaluated to determine the number of foster children a foster family may have in their home,” Spear said. “The number of children received in foster family home care shall not exceed the number specified on the approval.”

Some factors used to determine if a home is adequate for the number of children are:

n Separate sleeping rooms for children over age 6 who are of the opposite sex.

n Adequate number of bedrooms for all persons residing in the home.

n Bedrooms for foster children used only for the child’s sleeping, personal time and study.

n Bedrooms for foster children with adequate space for the child’s personal belongings.

n Sanitary bathroom facilities that provide privacy for use by family members and foster children.

“Homes shall be approved for no more than six foster children unless all the children are siblings,” he said. “No more than two of the six children shall be under the age of 24 months, unless siblings.”

Spear previously reported that the Spurgeons became approved as foster parents in Alabama in 2004. He added that couple were approved as foster parents in the state of Florida on June 3.

The Children’s Network of Southwest Florida oversees foster care in Southwest Florida.

“I cannot comment on the case, specifically, due to the ongoing open criminal investigation,” Ray Fischer, chief operating officer for Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, said on Thursday.

However, he explained that families generally go through training to be foster parents.

“Either in the state they came from or through ours. Then they would go through the licensing requirements, like Florida families,” Fischer said. “Generally, it takes four to six months, but many things can delay that process like background checks.”

He noted that the former and receiving state offices have a lot of communication.

“Most of the initial communication is done state to state, not local to local, because the first thing is to get the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children completed,” Fischer said. “We have a lot of communication with the family during the licensing process. A home study is done and the process of licensing the home, which is a very comprehensive process.”

“There is a large amount of paperwork that must be completed,” he added.

According to the CCPD report, the children described a pattern of living and physical abuse, administered by Spurgeon and his wife, and were treated differently than the biological children.

Food was kept separate between the two groups of children. While the biological children would receive three normal meals, the adopted-foster children would eat grits, bread, rice and beans.

Punishment for the children consisted of swimming laps in the pool or the canal behind their home, then being forced to take cold showers and smacked with spatulas. According to the report, they would be grabbed by their arms and then thrown into walls. One boy said he was smacked across the face.

Several of them reported being choked by their parents until they could not breathe.

Police also discovered that three of the girls were being forced to sleep on the outside lanai, where there was only one twin bed and a small sofa. A sheet was hung up to protect them from the elements.

During the medical exams, it was learned that most had not been to a doctor or dentist in years.

On Thursday, the neighborhood was still talking about the recent allegations.

“I work from home, so I would see the kids outside,” next-door-neighbor William Pimm said, adding that the children were homeschooled as far as he knew. “Nobody was really allowed inside.”

He confirmed the children would get in the canal, but they also had kayaks and paddle boards.

“They were in the canal all the time. That’s just what they did,” Pimm said. “It did look like they were having fun – nobody came running over here saying there was a problem.”

However, during the colder seasons he did notice that the children lacked pants and jackets. Also, he and his wife would sometimes see the younger children run into the backyard with a loaf of bread.

“They would huddle around it and eat it,” Pimm said. “Like it was their last meal.”

He added that some child protection agency would stop by on occasion. On one occasion, one of the girls was claiming that Jenise Spurgeon had reportedly grabbed her hard by the back of the neck.

Daniel Spurgeon said the girl just did not want to do her chores, according to Pimm.

The Spurgeons both have arraignments scheduled for Aug. 22.