3 charged with abusing man


Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:12 p.m.

BRONSON - Acting on an anonymous tip earlier this week, Levy County sheriff's deputies found a 51-year-old, mentally handicapped, malnourished man with infected sores and unexplained injuries.

The man told deputies the wounds on his wrists were the result of having been handcuffed, apparently when he was left alone in the Bronson home for hours, sheriff's officials say.

Three adults, all of whom are family members, have been arrested and charged with neglect of a disabled adult. One family member was also charged with false imprisonment and abuse of a disabled adult.

Those arrested were identified by the Sheriff's Office as Bronson residents Johnny Ray Sanderford, 33, Kenneth Wilbur Sanderford, 52, and Candace P. Sanderford, 60. Johnny Sanderford was arrested on the additional charges.

In a news release issued Wednesday evening, Levy Sheriff's Capt. Evan Sullivan said the case began Monday when an anonymous caller asked a 911 dispatcher to have deputies check on the well-being of a mentally handicapped adult male believed to be living with the Sanderfords in their home at 425 Marshburn Drive - which is less than a mile from the Sheriff's Office headquarters.

Sullivan said the caller claimed the man was being handcuffed to a four-by-four post inside the home.

Cpl. Bubba Wells said Kenneth Sanderford met him in the yard and said there was no need to check on the man. Kenneth eventually agreed to let Wells into the home, where the corporal said he found the man, who Wells estimated to weigh 80 to 100 pounds. Wells described the man as clearly very malnourished.

Investigator Mike Narayan was able to interview the man at an area hospital, where he had been taken for treatment. Medical care providers noted severe, infected sores on the man's buttocks, bruises and cuts over his ribs and a bruised left eye.

The additional charges against Johnny Sanderford were for allegedly punching the man in the face. Authorities say Candace Sanderford used makeup in an attempt to mask the man's injury.

Despite the man's mental disability and physical condition, Narayan said he was able to give a statement that "corroborated with his injuries."

For example, the wrist injuries were a result of having been tied up to posts inside the home over the past year, Narayan concluded.

The Sanderfords reportedly admitted to leaving the man alone and handcuffed to a post for four hours while they ate at a local restaurant. The man told deputies that he was always hungry and his diet had consisted of rice and beans.

Sullivan said a preliminary investigation into the family's background was that the man had lived with them in North Carolina before the family moved to Levy County about six years ago.

The Sanderfords were the man's caretakers.

According to Sullivan, the defendants' statements about how the man received his injuries were inconsistent and changed several times.

The man was hospitalized for his injuries and for malnutrition, authorities said.

The defendants were being held in the Levy County Jail on Wednesday.

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