A newly unsealed arrest warrant paints a picture of alleged abuse against two adopted Colorado boys who have been missing as far back as 2001, including starvation and confinement by being "rolled like a burrito."
"We've received inconsistent stories about what happened to the boys," El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff Terry Maketa said. "Everything from, 'They went to live with an uncle' to, 'They ran away' to, 'They've been institutionalized.' Their stories have been all over the map."
Sheriff Maketa said the case came to light after a tip provided "out of the blue" by two young men who were part of Austin and Edward's extended family. Brothers Ricky and Bryan Pennington had recently begun wondering what ever happened to Austin.
Ricky and Bryan were placed into foster care in 2003 with Tammy and Robert Falgout. Tammy Falgout is the daughter of Linda Bryant, who adopted the missing boys.
Bryan Pennington said he had "repeatedly observed Austin Bryant being physically abused" by Edward and Linda Bryant, according to an affidavit. He told detectives the Bryants would roll Austin in blankets "so he could not move and looked similar to a mummy."
Austin told Bryan Pennington that the Bryants had used a taser to shock him, leaving his body covered in welts, according to the affidavit.
"Mr. Pennington stated he also frequently observed Austin had black eyes and cuts on his face," the affidavit says.
Bryan Pennington said Austin told him that he was frequently locked in a trunk originally kept in Linda and Edward Bryant's closet, but eventually moved to the garage. Bryan Pennington told investigators he frequently heard "banging noises" coming from the garage.
"Mr. Pennington stated he believes the banging was Austin in the trunk in the garage," detectives wrote in court documents.
Years later, Bryan Pennington met James Bryant, one of Linda and Edward Bryant's nine adopted children.
Bryan asked James if he had heard from or seen his adopted brother Austin. James Bryant told Bryan that he had not seen Austin and said he believed his adoptive parents Edward and Linda Bryant had caused the boy's death, according to the affidavit.
In January 2011, Bryan was having lunch with his brother Ricky when they began discussing Austin. Ricky was apparently unaware of the abuse allegations or that Austin had disappeared. He insisted that Bryan go to police to tell his story, the affidavit says.
Detectives then paid a visit to James Bryant at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he serves in the U.S. Army. He is one of Linda and Edward Bryant's nine adopted children.
James Bryant eventually told detectives that his adoptive brother Austin had been subject to "significant abuse" including being restrained by being "rolled like a burrito," starved and possibly handcuffed.
"Austin was starved and denied food two to three times a week as a means of punishment," the affidavit says. "Mr. James Bryant said that Austin often ate out of the garbage can because he was hungry."
James Bryant also told detectives that Austin was kept in a large brown trunk in the garage for "two or three days at a time." He said he last saw Austin in 2003, and says all the children in the house "were told not to talk about Austin or his brother Edward," according to the affidavit.