Date: February 7, 2004 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Grady Judd
Media Contact:

Carrie Rodgers, (863) 534-6217 OR (863) 981-2374 Pager

Licensed Veterinarian Arrested for Abuse of Disabled Adult

Polk County Sheriff's Special Victims detectives arrested a local licensed veterinarian, who lists herself as "self-employed" and apparently does contractual work for local vets, for abusing her adult brother with whom she lives.

Gail Nichols, DOB 3/21/51, of 3211 West Bella Vista Avenue in Lakeland, was taken into custody without incident Sunday, February 6, 2005, and charged with Aggravated Abuse of a Disabled Adult (F-2). 

The affidavit states:

The victim, John Vansickler, is 48 years old and mentally disabled due to head injuries sustained in a traffic crash. Nichols and the victim have resided together for approximately one year, and the suspect is the primary care giver. She is also a licensed veterinarian. On February 5, 2005, detectives observed the following injuries on the victim: scratches to his cheeks and jaw, a laceration on his right forearm which had been stapled shut, a bruise on his forehead, and swollen and discolored ears. Further medical examination revealed 3-day-old to one-week-old bruises about his torso.

Witnesses and the victim provided consistent, sworn statements regarding the victim's injuries. The victim stated that Nichols abuses him when he "does not do his chores", which he says consists of cleaning and caring for her large amount of dogs. Detectives observed a locked refrigerator, and the victim stated that Nichols would also not feed him as punishment. The bruises and laceration were sustained when Nichols used a broken metal broom handle to strike the victim about his shoulders, back, arms, sides, and thighs. Nichols treated the laceration with antibiotic soap, an ointment, and stapled it shut. Nichols told her brother that, if asked, he should say that he fell and not to tell anyone about the abuse.

Nichols is being held in the Polk County Jail under no bond until her first appearance hearing this afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

Distribution: Chief of Staff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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