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Austin Bryant Was Severe Abused Before Disappearing, According To Affidavit

DAN ELLIOTT   03/11/11 06:05 PM ET   AP

Austin Bryant

DENVER — Deputies hunting for two brothers who disappeared years ago were checking out tips from the public Friday and planned to search again outside the adopted boys' former home near the Colorado foothills on Saturday.

A hot line received up to a dozen tips by Friday afternoon after El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa appealed a day earlier for the public's help to find Austin Eugene Bryant and Edward Dylan Bryant.

Investigators say the boys, biological brothers, apparently had disappeared by 2003 when the family lived in Monument, just north of Colorado Springs. Austin would have been 7 and Edward 11 at the time.

Law enforcement officers weren't alerted until January.

Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene said she didn't have specifics about any of the tips received but that all will be reviewed.

"Any information that comes in, we will assign to a detective to see if there's any significance," she said.

The boys' adoptive parents, Edward Bryant, 58, and Linda Bryant, 54, were arrested on charges of receiving nearly $175,000 in government payments to support the boys, even though they weren't living with the couple for most of the decade. They're being held in the El Paso County jail on charges including theft, forgery and falsified documents. Bail was set at $1 million for each.

They haven't been charged in the boys' disappearances. It was unclear whether they have attorneys.

The Bryants were arrested in Texas, where they had moved around 2005.

Sevene said deputies have conducted at least one search at the Bryants' former home using infrared technology designed to detect any disturbance in the soil.

Asked if the infrared scan could detect graves, Sevene said, "That's certainly a possibility."

Maketa has said the chances of finding the boys alive are shrinking.

In an arrest warrant affidavit, an adoptive brother of the missing boys, James Bryant, described abuses allegedly suffered by Austin.

Austin was denied food, spanked, forced to run up and down stairs and rolled up tightly in blankets "like a burrito" as punishment, James Bryant was quoted as saying.

Austin often grew so hungry that he scavenged food from a garbage can, said Bryant, now a soldier who was interviewed by Colorado investigators at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Bryant said by the time he was adopted by Edward and Linda Bryant, the younger Edward was no longer in the home.

Bryan Pennington, who was once in the foster care of Linda Bryant's biological daughter, told investigators he too had seen Austin rolled tightly in blankets and left on the floor "for extended periods of time."

Pennington also told investigators that Austin told him he had been shot by a stun gun by his adoptive parents and had sometimes been placed in a trunk in the garage, the affidavit says. The affidavit includes no eyewitness to those alleged events.

Linda Bryant told investigators she did not kill the boys, the affidavit said. She denied most of the abuse allegations but acknowledged forcing the boys to exercise and withholding food, which she described as "delaying food," the affidavit said.

The affidavit makes no mention of any comment from the elder Edward Bryant about the abuse allegations. It says he denied signing any documents to get payments for the two boys and denied any knowledge of getting government money to help with their care.

The younger Edward Bryant was born in May 1992 and Austin in January 1996, investigators said. Both were adopted by the Bryants in March 2000. Investigators have said they found no school or medical records on either boy since late 2003.

The parents gave conflicting accounts of when they last saw the boys, Maketa said. Edward Bryant said the younger Edward ran away in 2001 and Austin in 2003, while Linda Bryant said they both ran away in 2003, investigators said

Maketa said the family still lived in Colorado at the time but the parents didn't file a missing-person report.

The investigation started Jan. 22 when authorities were approached by Bryan Pennington and his brother, Ricky, who had both been foster children of Linda Bryant's daughter. They had been talking about contradictions in what they were told about why Austin and Edward were no longer with the Bryants, Maketa said.

Linda Bryant was arrested Feb. 25 in Lake Kiowa, Texas. Edward Bryant was arrested the same day in Denton, Texas, where he works. Investigators said the couple were married but separated.

Maketa said the Bryants had adopted seven other children, including a biological brother of Austin and Edward. Five, including the missing boys' brother, were living with Linda Bryant when she was arrested.

A sixth brother is incarcerated, Maketa said, but it wasn't clear where, or on what conviction. The seventh brother is James Bryant, the soldier.

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The El Paso County sheriff's hot line for tips in the case is 719-520-7209.

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Associated Press writers Catherine Tsai in Denver and Danny Robbins in Dallas, and news researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.

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Filed by Ethan Axelrod  |