Florida Couple Handcuffed, Locked Child In Closet 16 Hours Per Day, Deputies Say

County sheriff praises investigators who noticed something was wrong: “Their actions may have saved this young boy's life.”

January 26, 2021

John Hernandez and Natasha Dabbs [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]

John Hernandez and Natasha Dabbs [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A Florida couple has admitted to punishing a child by handcuffing him and forcing him to stand in a locked closet for around 16 hours every day since Christmas, deputies say.

According to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office news release, deputies were first tipped off to the alleged abuse after they received a call shortly before 6 a.m. on January 24 about a missing child. They were able to locate the boy at his Tampa home, where he had been hiding.

Detectives later returned to the address after launching an investigation into possible child abuse, and the boy allegedly revealed he had been receiving the extreme “punishment” every day over the course of weeks, the news release states.

John Hernandez, 41, allegedly admitted to deputies he would discipline the child for behavioral issues by putting him into the closet handcuffed from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hernandez is charged with aggravated child abuse, malicious punishment, Tampa’s WFTS-TV reported.

Natasha Dabbs, 37, allegedly told investigators she was aware of the punishments, which had started on December 25, but never attempted to intervene.

Dabbs faces charges of child neglect and failure to report child abuse, according to WFTS-TV.

“The actions of this couple are reprehensible,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. “I am so proud of our deputies for noticing something was not right while they were at the initial call and following through. Their actions may have saved this young boy's life.”

Next Up

Ex-Dunkin’ Donuts Worker Gets House Arrest For Punch That Killed Racist Customer

27-year-old Corey Pujols punched 77-year-old Vonelle Cook after he called him a racial slur. The punch was a fatal blow.

Ghislaine Maxwell: From Socialite To Jeffrey Epstein’s Co-Conspirator

On June 28, 2022, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking crimes.

5 Questions The Gabby Petito Case Brought Up About Domestic Violence

The murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito at the hands of her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, sparked a national conversation about the signs of domestic abuse.

True Crime News Roundup: Teacher Granted Early Retirement After He’s Caught Striking Student In Head

Plus: Man who violated protection order shot dead; Marilyn Manson files defamation lawsuit against ex; ex-UFC champ accused of attempted murder; and father kills his three daughters, himself in murder-suicide.

Two Years After The Death Of George Floyd, Here Are The Developments In His Case

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, 46, was murdered in Minneapolis by 44-year-old police officer Derek Chauvin. Three other police officers were implicated in Floyd’s death.

OnlyFans Model Courtney Clenney Arrested For Murder Of Boyfriend

On April 3, 2022, Christian Obumseli, 27, was stabbed to death in his apartment. Police initially believed his girlfriend acted in self-defense but she has since been charged with his murder.

Mother Who Claimed 7-Year-Old Daughter Was Sick Sentenced To Prison After Girl Dies

“This is a despicable crime,” prosecutor says of Kelly Renee Turner approving “surgery after surgery” for the child.

True Crime News Roundup: Missing California Woman Found Dead In Remote Woods, Ex-Husband Arrested

Plus: Four University of Idaho students brutally murdered; Pregnant Florida mom found shot; Gabby Petito’s family awarded $3 million in lawsuit; Parents of boy found dead in washing machine charged with his murder.