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Dad says he missed 'red flags' in Harnett child abuse case

Posted November 29, 2012

— A Harnett County man facing child abuse and child neglect charges after his ex-wife allegedly abused and starved their children for more than a year says he did not know they were being mistreated, although looking back on it, admits that he missed signs of abuse.

"I missed a lot of flags, and I'm going to have to live with that," Brad Thill, a defense contractor from Cameron, said in an interview Thursday on the TV talk show Dr. Phil.

Investigators say his ex-wife, Leslie Tieseler, 37, routinely locked three of their five children in a room and tool chest over a period of 14 months, denied them food, beat them with a wooden spoon and shot them with a BB gun.

Tieseler, who is in jail under a $1 million bond, was arrested in October on three counts of child abuse.

Thill, 38, who had been working in Afghanistan during that 14-month period, was later arrested on three counts each of child abuse and child neglect for failing to report the alleged abuse.

Tiesler has one biological son, and the couple adopted four boys in 2008. The couple divorced in March 2010, and Tiesler moved away with the children, according to Thill. They reconciled, and Thill allowed them to stay with her while he was overseas.

"All I want is for the kids to have a better life, and I thought I was doing the right thing, working, making good money and serving our country," he said on Thursday's show. "I'll never forgive myself."

Dad says he missed 'red flags' in Harnett child abuse case Dad says he missed 'red flags' in Harnett child abuse case

Thill said that he had been home for a week when the Harnett County Department of Social Services began investigating after a concerned neighbor complained. Social workers left the children in the home for three more weeks before putting them in protective custody, he added.

"I had no knowledge of what my ex-wife was doing to the children," Thill said, even though his 14-year-old adopted son weighed less than 60 pounds. "I started asking questions. She told me one of the children had been treated for anorexia."

There were other signs of problems, too, he said, and for every question he had, Tieseler had an answer.

Clothes in the bedroom smelled like urine and feces, he said, but Tieseler said she was using a toolbox to temporarily store clothes messed up by the boy.

She also said the children had no beds in their bedrooms because they had broken them, Thill said.

He later learned from investigators that the beds were broken because the children were hungry and wanted out of the rooms.

When he pressed his children on the issues, he said, they confirmed what his ex-wife said.

It was after dinner one night during the three weeks after social workers' first visit when he hugged his children goodnight that he realized something was wrong.

"They were afraid to go to her, and she said, 'Don't even think about hugging me,'" he said. "Then, I knew something had been going on in this house. I could see the fear, at that point, in their faces."

When he confronted Tieseler about it, he said, "she would get upset with me and refuse to talk to me, and she would blame me that I left her alone with the children."

Thill's attorney says his client is expected to plead not guilty to the charges during a court appearance next week.

Meanwhile, the five children are still in the custody of social services. Authorities have reported that the three who were abused have all regained a significant amount of weight.

Speaking on the TV show, Thill had a message for them.

"I will get you back home. It's tough right now, but I love you and you will come home," he said. "I will fight tooth and nail. I will work 10 jobs to pay for a legal defense to get you home."

34 Comments

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  • Dynol Yn Cael Ei Nov 30, 6:22 p.m.

    happymom - "He was out of the country... How exactly was he supposed to "see" the abuse from the other side of the planet?"

    He was home for a week and did nothing about children who appeared underweight and afraid of their mother, did nothing to replace their beds and did nothing to seek out the source of the smell of feces and urine in their rooms.

    That last count alone would have sent me seeking, if for no other reason than to get it clean and get rid of the smell.

  • Dynol Yn Cael Ei Nov 30, 6:20 p.m.

    hedgy_one - "Didn't they ever sit down for a meal together after he came home? I know he was only home for a week when he was arrested, but why hadn't he bought beds for the children during that time? Thrift stores have them at cheap prices! I don't think he should be held accountable for what happened when he wasn't there. How was he to know? But alarms should have begun going off when he returned home & saw the state of things!"

    All good comments, every single one.

  • Dynol Yn Cael Ei Nov 30, 6:20 p.m.

    I don't believe him.

  • kj90 Nov 30, 3:04 p.m.

    The mother took her frustrations out on the children, because he was in Afghanistan. The state trusted this couple to take care of these children. This woman was never cut out to be a mother not alone a stay at home mom. The dad seems to be into himself, rather than showing affection and sympathy for the children's ordeal. I don't care if this guy is former military, he needs to be held responsible and accountable. This guy could have been a truck driver for all I care. I would've been ashamed to show my face on T.V for this nonsense. I wonder how much Dr.Phil paid him to appear on his show and if that money is going to the kids in some form.

  • hedgy_one Nov 30, 3:01 p.m.

    Didn't they ever sit down for a meal together after he came home? I know he was only home for a week when he was arrested, but why hadn't he bought beds for the children during that time? Thrift stores have them at cheap prices! I don't think he should be held accountable for what happened when he wasn't there. How was he to know? But alarms should have begun going off when he returned home & saw the state of things!

  • happymom Nov 30, 1:10 p.m.

    I must be missing something. He was out of the country... How exactly was he supposed to "see" the abuse from the other side of the planet?

  • itsyoureternalsoul Nov 30, 1:08 p.m.

    Was it adopting Wards of the Court or the unhappy, unloved children he did not pick up on?

  • Pepe Silvia Nov 30, 12:37 p.m.

    And this statement: "I will get you back home. It's tough right now, but I love you and you will come home," he said. "I will fight tooth and nail. I will work 10 jobs to pay for a legal defense to get you home."

    Again, it's full of "I"s. Brad, this isn't about YOU! - monami

    Its just as full of "you"s... Since when is "I love you and will fight for you" a selfish statement?

  • nitabitasmith Nov 30, 11:21 a.m.

    Sad situation.

  • superman Nov 30, 11:18 a.m.

    DSS just doesnt pull children out of a home until they collect facts and feel they have a case. I feel sorry for him if he didnt see ANY red flags. I dont think the children are going to want anything to do with him now or later. A parent should protect their children and he just missed the boat completely. Instead of asking his x-wife questions why didnt he get the children alone and ask them? They were afraid of the woman and they certainly wouldnt say anything in front of her as to the way she treated them. He should be ashamed to show his face in public much less on national tv.

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