Polk couple accused of using duct tape, stun gun on girl

Two parents are facing child abuse charges in Polk County for allegedly using duct tape and even a stun gun on a child as an act of punishment.

Steven Sanchez, 31, and Yalonda Ashley, 36, both of Lakeland, are being held in the Polk County Jail.

Deputies were alerted to the alleged abuse by the couple's co-worker, Michael Smith. Both were contracted workers who delivered newspapers for the Lakeland Ledger out of a warehouse in Bartow. The couple often brought the children with them to work prior to taking them to school, according to authorities.

Smith claimed he witnessed Ashley cover her 10-year-old daughter's mouth and tie her wrists with duct tape in the warehouse after the child wouldn't stop fighting with her siblings. He alerted his supervisor.

"The explanation was given that the child had a lot of candy, she was a little hyped up, a little out of control.

She was hitting and shoving her siblings," said Carrie Hortsman, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

According to arrest reports, Ashley was trying to teach the child, who is one of 12 children between the couple, to keep her hands to herself. Sanchez is the one who removed the duct tape several minutes later.

When deputies later interviewed the girl, she told them she was duct taped. She also told authorities Sanchez shot her on her bottom with a stun-gun back on January 3 while trying to scare the children into cleaning the house.

According to the victim, the other children in the house were running around to get away from the stun device, which detectives described as a Vipertek mini stun-gun.

"They wouldn't do anything to put the kids in any harm," said Elaina Jane, a coworker who shares a home with the family on Glenda Street in Lakeland.

Jane said she believes the abuse allegations stem from "jealousy" from the coworker. She said the couple would never intentionally try to hurt their children, who range in age from 1 to 19 years old.

"This day and age, you can breathe wrong in front of a child and someone would say you're abusing the child," said Jane. "For me, growing up in the 70s, I had the paddle to the butt and everything growing up. If anybody ever did anything like that these days, it would be considered corporal punishment."

Sanchez is being charged with aggravated child abuse and failure to report child abuse. His bond was set at $16,000.

Ashley is being charged with child abuse, and she's being held on a $1,000 bond.

According to authorities, the other children were interviewed and none of them reported being abused. There is no record of previous child abuse with DCF for either Ashley or Sanchez.