Vigo County couple accused of binding, starving children

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Police arrested a Vigo County couple accused of tying up, beating and denying their children food in what investigators called one of the worst abuse cases they’ve ever seen.

The investigation started when police were called about a 17-year-old male seen walking near 3rd Street and 8th Avenue in Terre Haute. The teen was barefoot and told police he’d escaped from his foster parents by jumping from a second-story window.

Police said the boy weighed 93 pounds. He told them that his foster parents—39-year-old Larry Russell and 35-year-old Nikki Russell—tied him and his foster brothers to a metal bed. The teen told police he escaped the home to find help.

The boy lived in the home with four other children ranging from the ages of ten to 17, police said. One of the children was the biological child of the Russells. All five are in the care of the Department of Child Services.

The 17 year old described a series of harsh punishments that bordered on torture, police said. The teen said the Russells beat children, locked them in bedrooms, pulled their hair, bound them, denied them food and poured urine on them.

When interviewed by police, Nikki Russell admitted to some of the punishments, saying she’d tied up the 17-year-old boy while hitting him in the face. She said her husband padlocked the boys inside a bedroom. The punishment appeared to be for stealing food or bladder control problems, investigators said.

Larry Russell denied tying up the children but said his wife had duct-taped “pull-up” undergarments to one of the children.

The Russells face preliminary charges of criminal confinement and neglect of a dependent. They are due in court Wednesday.

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