John and Linda Dollar's Adult Daughter Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," February 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A shocking court ruling. John and Linda Dollar (search) are a Florida couple accused of brutally torturing their adopted children. Just hours ago, their daughter, who is adult, went before a judge, seeking unsupervised visits with her siblings. The judge refused her request after social workers said she participated in the torture.

Shanda Dollar Shelton joins us now from Tampa, along with her attorneys, Bill Grant and Bo Samargya. Welcome to all of you.

Shanda, first to you. You wanted to get visitation with your siblings. When is the last time you saw your siblings?

SHANDA DOLLAR SHELTON, SEEKS VISITATION WITH ABUSED SIBLINGS: It was last December.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bill, what happened in court?

BILL GRANT, CLIENT CLAIMS TORTURE BY PARENTS: Well, Greta, we went in today for the Dependency Acts. The Department of Children and Families (search) raised some scurrilous allegations against our client, indicating that she had participated in this torture, and it never occurred.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bo, in terms of your expectation, did you expect that the judge would permit the visitation?

BO SAMARGYA, CLIENT CLAIMS TORTURE BY PARENTS: Greta, to be honest with you, we were expecting a favorable ruling. And I think it should be clear to you and your viewers that the department started with their shenanigans at 8:40 this morning. They filed an objection to the hearing being held in front of the general magistrate. And after my partner, Bill Grant, got up to the duty judge, we had it held in front of a circuit court judge. So they were trying to circumvent this hearing all the way up to five minutes before the hearing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Shanda, what were you expecting to do if you did get visitation with your siblings?

SHELTON: I'm sorry? What do you mean?

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you want to do? Did you want them to move in with you? Did you want to just spend a couple of hours with them? What was your expectation?

SHELTON: As far as today goes and the hearing today, I just wanted visitation. I wanted to see them, let them know that I'm here for them and I love them and just let them know that there is still people out there that care.

VAN SUSTEREN: When was the last time, Shanda, that you spoke to your parents?

SHELTON: I spoke to them shortly after the investigation against them started.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what did they say?

SHELTON: Linda told me what was going on and that they were being investigated by DCF. I asked her if she knew what the allegations were. She told me no.

VAN SUSTEREN: You refer to her as Linda. Did you grow up with her as her mother? Is this adoptive? Are John and Linda your biological parents?

SHELTON: No, they're not. They're my adoptive parents.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were you adopted as an infant?

SHELTON: I was adopted by Linda as an infant.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so when did John come into your life?

SHELTON: He married Linda when I was approximately 6 years old. He adopted me when I was 15.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any reason you refer to her as Linda instead of Mother? I mean, I know that some people do it, but nonetheless, it's more unusual than it is usual.

SHELTON: Honestly, I don't think of her in that way anymore, just based on the treatment of myself when I was in the home, and the children. I don't think she deserves that title.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bill, what's the next step legally to try to unite Shanda with her siblings?

GRANT: Well, today, the circuit court told us that Shanda was a participant in the proceedings. Prior to that, the Department of Child and Families tried to argue that our client, Shanda, was not an interested party and was not a participant. They tried to shut down the hearing before it ever started, saying she had no standing.

So what we're going to do now is, after the ruling today, is we're going to get back before the other circuit court judge who normally holds these hearings because the duty judge today, Judge Howard, heard it on an emergency basis. So I think today, after the ruling by Judge Howard, it became clear that he was going to defer this matter and we'll get on filing those motions next week.

One more thing, Greta, is that we need to realize the Department of Children and Family right now are casting a great, large shadow over our client because now they're threatening to take her 7-month-old infant daughter from her and her husband out of Pasco County, where they reside. So I mean, the cycle by the department is continuous.

There's no reason at all that we can't have visitation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bo, is the problem the DCF? Is the problem the allegation of participation, or is it the judge? I realize that the adoptive parents, John and Linda, are the base of it, but what's the other problem?

SAMARGYA: There's two things, Greta. The first one you hit on, is they're trying to claim now that she went along with their conduct and was an active participant, which we vehemently deny and so does our client. She was under their threat and coercion to do the things that she did. And she did not participate in any physical harm to these brothers and sisters. It was that she was told to lock them in the closet.

Second, Greta, is that the department stood up in court today and insulted our client by saying that they think her interests in this case are suspect. And I want it to be clear that her interests are not suspect and she is truly there and got us in the heart when we first talked to her because she dearly wants to see her brothers and sisters and see how they're doing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED NEIGHBOR: We're a Christian family, and we can't understand anybody abusing the children. It's just very difficult to fathom that someone would do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: The adult daughter of the Florida couple accused of brutally torturing and starving their children says she was abused until she left home three years ago. We are back with Shanda Dollar Shelton and her attorneys.

Shanda, when you saw your siblings in December, the two twin brothers who are 14 years old weighed 36 and 38 pounds. What did you think?

SHELTON: I was not aware of their weight at the time. And based on their clothing that they had on at the time, I couldn't tell that they were so thin. They had been small in stature the entire time I lived in the home and so that did not cause concern for me. Obviously, to learn that their weight was so little and that they were obviously malnourished was a huge, heart-breaking shock to me.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you were living at the home up until three years ago, were you aware of malnourishment, of failure to feed, electric shock, toenails pulled by pliers, any bondage by chains or locking plastic strips or that feet were being struck by hammers? Did you ever see any of that?

SHELTON: No, I did not. I stated earlier today in the hearing what I witnessed in the home. As far as the physical allegations that are being brought forth right now, no, I did not witness any of those things.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the worst thing you saw in the home?

SHELTON: When the children were forced to sleep overnight in a locked room or a closet.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was the purpose of that?

SHELTON: According to the Dollars, the purpose was to keep them from getting up during the night and stealing money and some of the other children's belongings.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are the Dollars like?

SHELTON: They're very controlling. They have a very good presentation in front of other people. There have been many people say -- and I'm sure you've heard them even say so to the media -- that they had no idea that anything was going on, that they presented themselves as very caring people, very loving people. And that's true, that's how they presented themselves.

VAN SUSTEREN: What has been your relationship with them since you left home three years ago?

SHELTON: I speak to them occasionally, every week or every two weeks on the phone. I saw them very rarely. I believe I've seen them, you know, maybe three, four, five times at the most, as far as John and Linda. The children I have seen, because they wouldn't allow me to see them, even less.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why wouldn't they let you see the children?

SHELTON: I don't know. Every time I tried to make plans to visit with the kids, there was always some excuse. Either they were going out of town or they were too busy, things like that.

VAN SUSTEREN: How old are you, and what do you do?

SHELTON: I'm 25. I'm a secretary.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what are your feelings towards Linda and John Dollar?

SHELTON: I'm very disgusted by the things that have gone on in the home. I'm very heartbroken for the children that they've had to go through this.

VAN SUSTEREN: In court today, describing you as a participant, what do you think the base of the allegation was? Why were you called that?

SHELTON: Because I was forced by John and Linda Dollar, through intimidation and threats, to lock them in the closet, for instance. That's why they're saying that I was a participant in the abuse, when in all reality, it was unwilling, it was through force, something I wholeheartedly objected to and still do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the children cry on the other side and ask to be let out of the closet?

SHELTON: No, they didn't.

VAN SUSTEREN: They'd go to the closet, you'd lock it, and that was it for the evening?

SHELTON: John and Linda had made the children to believe that they deserved the things that were happening to them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there equal justice among all the children, or were some favored?

SHELTON: There were definitely some favored.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why were they favored?

SHELTON: I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: How was that shown, that favoritism?

SHELTON: In the treatment. The punishments were definitely less severe. You know, basically, the treatment of the children.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was the most severe punishment you saw?

SHELTON: The children being forced to sleep in the closet.

VAN SUSTEREN: And then next in line, what other punishment did you see?

SHELTON: Physical punishment of spanking.

VAN SUSTEREN: Shanda, Bill, Bo, thank you all for joining us. I appreciate it.

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