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Police: Cameron woman starved, beat three of her five children

Posted October 22, 2012

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— A Cameron woman is facing abuse charges after authorities said she starved, beat and routinely locked three of her children in a room and tool chest over a period of 14 months.

All five of Leslie Tiesler’s children were removed from her home on Calvary Church Road and placed in foster care shortly after the abuse was discovered in May, according to the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office.

Tiesler, 37, was arrested Oct. 16, following a lengthy investigation. She is charged with three counts of child abuse and was held in the Harnett County Detention Center under a $1 million secured bond.

Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins says it's the worst case of child abuse he has ever seen and that it brought one of his detectives to tears.

"One of the kids particularly, it's disturbing to look at the picture. It's just skin and bone," Rollins said.

The story unfolded months ago, when the Harnett County Department of Social Services began investigating Tiesler based on a complaint from a neighbor who was concerned about the condition of the children.

Sheriff’s deputies said an investigation revealed four of the boys in the home were adopted and one boy was the biological child of Tiesler. Three of the adopted children, ages 13 and 14, told authorities they were starved, shot with a BB gun, beaten with a wooden spoon, locked in a room and forced into a Stanly tool box for days with no food and only a pipe inserted through a hole for air.

Authorities said the two other children may have participated in the abuse.

Brad Thill, who answered the door at Tiesler's home and identified himself as her ex-husband, told WRAL News on Monday that the alleged abuse did not happen in Cameron, but at a home in Mocksville and at a home in Florida.

Thill said he and Tiesler split up in 2010 and that he had been deployed to Afghanistan for a defense contractor. He said he was unaware of the abuse and was shocked to find the children so malnourished when he returned home in April, calling it a "nightmare."

On Monday afternoon, a sheriff's deputy arrested Thill and charged him with three misdemeanor counts of child abuse.

"He came home after being away for two-and-a-half years, and he had discovered that his children were in this condition," said Thill's attorney, Jason Wunsch. "He had not previously been home since December, and when he was home in December, his children looked fine, healthy."

Neighbor Amanda Summers says she saw Tiesler harshly disciplining the three boys.

"It was always very militaristic stuff – stuff that I would do in basic training – that children can't or shouldn't be able to do," Summers said.

She says Tiesler and the boys moved out in early 2011 but returned this February.

"I only saw two of the boys. I actually remarked about that to my husband – they have five children and we only see two over and over again," Summers said.

Neighbor Andreana Johnson had a different take and said she believes Tiesler is a good mother.

"I’ve never encountered any problems with her, as far as her children and the way she behaves. She’s a good mom," Johnson said. "My children played with her children, and I wouldn’t have let them go anywhere that they would’ve been endangered."

Since they were removed from the home, Tiesler's children have gained weight. One child has gained 27 pounds; the second child has gained 20 pounds; and the third has gained 10 pounds, authorities said.

According to Prevent Child Abuse America, child abuse and neglect affects more than 1 million children each year and costs the nation $220 million every day. That covers costs, such as those associate with investigations, foster care and medical and mental health treatment.

The group anticipates that it will cost $80 billion in 2012. North Carolina's share of that cost is estimated to be about $2 billion.

90 Comments

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  • shortcake53 Oct 23, 1:15 p.m.

    Let me explain it to you "fly". Its a news story because a lot of people (obviously not you) care very deeply about children, our own and others. If it bothers you so much to see compassion and caring from strangers, go read The Inquirer.

  • flyNC Oct 23, 11:59 a.m.

    I do not know why this is a news story let alone a top story. Terrible, lazy journalism.

  • driverkid3 Oct 23, 10:25 a.m.

    medic134::::But there are certainly a lot of bad biological parents too.

    You got that one right. I am the living proof of that. I wasn't starved, just very skinny. But I took beatings and verbal abuse EVERY DAY! Beatings with sticks, belts, anything she could get her hands on. Every day, along with the beatings, she reminded me how much she hated me by telling me in those words.

    My heart breaks for these kids. I truly hope they can recover. I did, and it took me 55 years, and left me with PTSD. I was the only one out of 4 kids that went through this.

  • jdkitzmi Oct 23, 10:12 a.m.

    You DO get paid from the state after adopting a child if they have special needs. My parents have been foster parents for 5 years now and have seen the good and the bad of the system...unfortunately more bad than good . But they do the best they can for the kids they get through their door. They always spend the entire stipend they get on the child in their care...and often spend more out of pocket. They certainly don't do it for the money. They are very involved with the kids they get and they do their best to speak up for them when they can. They speak to DSS about concerns, but are often pushed aside, which is really sad. It saddens them on the poor quality of some of the other foster and adoptive homes.

    The system really needs to be better focused on whats best for the kids. Often, what is best for them isn't considered nearly as much as what's convenient. And its sad all around. This should have never occurred. And now the poor kids have been abused and are back into the system.

  • belovedsparrow Oct 23, 9:03 a.m.

    If I were Amanda Summers I'd be embarrassed to have been quoted saying that Leslie Tiesler was a good mother.
    As clear is it is that three of these children were so terribly malnourished there is no doubt that they couldn't have be come so starved had Tiesler been feeding them. From the way this article reads the other two children weren't so starved so she did know how to feed a child. She not only chose not to but she deliberately chose to neglect and abuse those three kids.
    It's just shameful.

  • Weetie Oct 23, 8:53 a.m.

    Am I wrong to think this "neighbor" from whom the children tried to steal food might also need to be charged. I wonder if it's the same neighbor who claims this woman is a "good mother". The news article claims these children were punished for "TRYING to steal food." How did she find out??? Did the neighbor TELL the "good mother" she caught them?? Just something else here that I cannot put my finger on. I pray these children get the help they so much need and deserve and she gets a bullet.

  • foghat001 Oct 23, 8:43 a.m.

    Disgusting behaviour.

  • Karma0784 Oct 23, 8:09 a.m.

    Glad Social Services acted quickly and got these children out of the home. Prayers for the ones who were abused.

  • Scubagirl Oct 22, 7:30 p.m.

    " It did not take them until now to remove them, and the kid did not gain 27 lbs in a week. They were removed from the home in May. Why it took until now to place her under arrest is another question. mjkmj"

    my bad, you are correct. But it does seem this should have been caught before those children were so malnourished. Glad they are safe now and doing better physically. I only hope that they will get the help they need to psychologically recover.

  • miseem Oct 22, 6:36 p.m.

    Neighbor Andreana Johnson had a different take and said she believes Tiesler is a good mother.

    Sounds like Ms. Johnson doesn't have a clue. Has she seen more than two of the kids? If so, she did not notice anything wrong? If she did not see more than two kids and just found out three more lived there, does she not see a problem? Hope she's not in child care, education or health care.

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