When Michael Bilodeau couldn’t be there to see his 12-year-old daughter stripped and whipped with a belt, he made sure to listen in on a speakerphone from his Coral Springs home, according to police reports.
She deserved it, he told investigators, because she was a liar and “it is stated in the Bible that it is OK to spank your children,” the reports said.
Bilodeau, 48, was arrested Saturday in Port St. Lucie on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect. He has since bonded out of jail. He did not return messages left at his home and cell phone Tuesday.
The girl is under the protection of the state Department of Children & Families.
“Based on the bruises on her body, they’re in various stages of healing, which is evidence to us that this has been going on for some time,” said Officer Robert Vega, spokesman for the Port St. Lucie Police Department. “It’s more than parental discipline; it’s excessive, it’s child abuse.”
Bilodeau, who is listed as running a Fort Lauderdale office furniture business, lives with his wife and two sons in Coral Springs. Three years ago, he and his wife decided they couldn’t take care of their daughter, so they sent her to live with a couple they were friends with in Port St. Lucie, he told police. He made sure the friends had similar religious beliefs.
He allowed them to punish her like he did: strip her naked, put her in an awkward position and strike her repeatedly with a belt or a stick, according to Bilodeau’s arrest report. The punishments came in response to the girl not using proper English, not finishing her homework, lying, or “not accepting Jesus into her heart,” police have said.
Police discovered the situation Saturday when the girl was reported panhandling at a Port St. Lucie Walgreens. When police found her, she told them she ran away because she was afraid of being spanked again by her caretakers. They found numerous bruises and cuts on her legs, buttocks and back, reports said.
The girl had been missing since Thursday, the police report said, but neither Bilodeau nor the girl’s caretakers reported her missing.
Police said Bilodeau admitted to punishing the girl by striking her with a belt and a stick.According to the police report, he makes his daughter strip naked “because he wants her to feel the pain.”
Coral Springs police, along with child welfare investigators, visited the Bilodeaus’ Coral Springs home earlier this week but did not remove either of the two children from their mother.
“They didn’t see, at that time, any reason to remove the kids here,” said Capt. Rich Nicorvo, spokesman for the department.
Bilodeau was the only person charged in the case as of Tuesday, but more charges are expected, Vega said.
“It’s something we’re looking into right now,” he said.
Information from the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers contributed to this report.
Brian Haas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4597.