On January 1, 2021 Officer Sean Platter with the Seminole County Sheriff's Department was called to Advent Hospital in Winter Park, Florida.
Upon arrival, he was met in the lobby by a Child Services Investigator who indicated that they had received a call to the hotline.
The situation that they found themselves investigating was one of a "critically ill" child that had been brought to the hospital for treatment for open wounds and the story presented by the parent did not match with the injuries.
As hospital workers were able to further examine the 8-year-old girl, they determined that she had a "staph infection, sepsis, renal and liver failure, open infected wounds on both legs and pneumonia in both lungs."
Officer Platter spoke with the father, 39-year-old Joseph Wolfthal, listed as an engineer with Lockheed-Martin and found out that his wife had two other children at home. Later that evening, officers responded to the residence and placed 41-year-old Jennifer Wolfthal under arrest and took the other two children, ages 9 and 11 according to WFLA, into protective custody.
They were both immediately taken to the hospital for treatment. One of the children was treated for "skin infections, open wounds, bruising and malnutrition" before being released approximately a week later. The third child was in the hospital for approximately two weeks "for open wounds, skin infections, malnutrition" and required "re-feeding."
Upon their release from the hospital they were interviewed by staff members at Kid's House Advocacy Center.
The children, who had been adopted by the Wolfthals, disclosed to investigators what their "normal" days looked like.
One of the children disclosed that corporal punishment was a common occurrence and that they would be hit by both Jennifer and Joseph in the same location with a "whacker" to the point of bleeding.
One of the children told investigators "about multiple punishments but could not ever tell us what she had done wrong in order to be punished."
The other child interviewed stated she would be told that she "couldn't stop sinning" anytime she was punished. Actions which would warrant punishment included "not going to the bathroom at the proper times, wetting the bed, not performing her exercises properly and not eating what was provided to her" which she stated would often be "bran flakes cereal, water, and vegetable puree."
She further stated that her day would often be spent "writing sentences at her desk" in her room where, like the other bedrooms, the doorknob had been installed backwards leaving the locking mechanism on the outside of the room.
Platter stated that, "pursuant to a search warrant, I located over 1,100 paragraphs written that stated "my body stays flat on the bed at all times, I was never given permission to move or say anything. Now I get to write about this along with everything else. I'm a fool." There were over 10 additional sayings written multiple times located at the residence."
Every night, while laying on a bed that consisted of a plastic mattress cover and a pillow, "they would have cold water poured over them." Situated in the room would be "a box fan on the floor to act as additional cooling/drying and a noise to cover so that she could not hear any of the interactions" going on in the residence.
Joseph has been charged with two counts of neglect of a child with great bodily harm, three counts of aggravated child abuse and three counts of false imprisonment of a child under 13-years of age. The Orlando Sentinel indicates that he posted the $45,000 bond late yesterday.
Jennifer, an author of a children's book who was promoting a second, remains in custody at the Seminole County Detention Center in lieu of a $210,000 bond. She has been charged with three counts of aggravated child abuse, two counts of neglect of a child with great bodily harm, one count of battery domestic violence, and three counts of false imprisonment of a child under 13-years of age.
According to court records, Jennifer's attorney filed a request for a jury trial on January 5, the same day her plea of not guilty was entered. Her trial date is set for June 25, 2021.
Joseph's plea of not guilty and request for a jury trial were both filed on January 27. His trial date is scheduled for July 19, 2021.
Clavis Publishing, who had published Jennifer's first book has removed her from their list of authors since becoming aware of the charges against her.
“We were made aware of horrific news regarding one-time, Clavis’ author Jennifer Wolfthal’s arrest and strongly condemn child abuse, abandonment and neglect, today and always,” the statement said. “We will do what’s within our power to cease commercialization of her book further.”