LAKELAND – Describing their behavior as “deplorable,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is calling a couple arrested on Thursday an example of one of the worst cases of child abuse he’s seen.
An additional charge was filed against the couple today for abuse the sheriff’s office says was directed at a nine-year-old girl.
The couple that got arrested — 57-year-old Albert Cusson and his 47-year-old wife, Nancy Cusson, of 12217 Old Dade City Road in Lakeland – were arrested and charged with child abuse after a boy in their care fled the home. According to the arrest report, the couple made the 13-year-old boy kneel on his knees with his hands behind his back on the bathroom floor from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., a full nine hours, for 10 days straight, until this punishment ended on March 3.
According to Carrie S. Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, “The boy was not allowed to stretch, take a break, eat, or use the restroom during the nine straight hours of kneeling. If the boy moved during the time he was supposed to be kneeling, he was beaten with a stick. During the time period where he was forced to kneel all day, he slept in the bathtub at night.”
The couple is still in the Polk County Jail, being held without bond.
Judd said he was sickened to read this report.
“There is no excuse for this type of deplorable behavior,” he said. “People who mistreat children are the worst of the worst. Jail is too good for them.”
The Cussons were arrested on Thursday, March 9, and charged with one count each aggravated child abuse.
“The Cussons will be more comfortable in the county jail than this little boy was when he was in their care,” Judd said.
The arrests were made after the boy fled the home on Wednesday, March 7, Eleazer noted in her report on the arrests.
On Tuesday, March 6, she noted, “The boy was told he would be kneeling all day for 20 days straight as punishment. After two days of kneeling all day, on March 7, the boy left the residence because he ‘could not take it anymore,’ ” and after he fled the home, the abuse was reported to the sheriff’s office, which sent detectives to interview both the boy and the Lakeland couple.
While the boy was being interviewed, Eleazer noted, detectives observed marks on his body that were “consistent with the abuse,” while also noticing he had another clear problem.
The detectives, she added, “noted that the boy had trouble walking because he was so sore from kneeling for so long.”
The 13-year-old was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center to be treated for his injuries.
In addition to making the boy kneel for hours, Eleazer noted that the couple fed the child one meal each day.
“Nancy made a shake each morning for the boy consisting of vegetables, meat, and any other food, which she described as a ‘protein shake with at least 1,800 to 2,000 calories’ to detectives, and then did not allow the boy any food or drink for the rest of the day,” Eleazer noted. “The boy was told this was his punishment for misbehaving.”
While they were being interviewed by the sheriff’s offices, Eleazer said, the couple defended their method of punishing the boy.
“The Cussons told detectives this was ‘the only punishment that works for him,’ “ Eleazer noted.
The Cussons also have a 9-year-old girl in their care. Detectives interviewed the girl, who reported that she had witnessed the abuse inflicted on the 13-year-old boy, and that she was also made to kneel for two days.
On Friday, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims detectives charged Albert and Nancy Cusson with one additional count each aggravated child abuse after the girl told detectives the couple made her kneel on the bathroom floor for several hours, and forced her to sleep in the bathtub.
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