A mother is being charged with several felonies after her daughter showed up at school with hundreds of roaches reportedly infesting her backpack, leaving her aghast teachers to purport that she neglected to ensure her child was living in a sanitary environment.
33-year-old Jessica Stevenson is a single mother of 5 children between the ages of 5 and 14, and they reside together in a Milton, Florida, home.
Last week, Stevenson’s daughter, who is in 2nd grade at Bagdad Elementary School, was in the cafeteria during the lunch period. Upon opening her backpack it was reported that hundreds of cockroaches began to crawl out.
When school staff members saw the insects they reportedly questioned the child, who said that her home had a problem with roaches. The staff also believed that the girl had been sent to school in the same outfit for a week straight, and it led them to suspect that something in her home might be amiss.
The school officials placed a call to the Florida Department of Children and Families, and additionally alerted a school resource officer about their concerns. When the incident was reported it was also alleged by the staff that the child’s clothing had become so dirty that visible urine and excrement was on the fabric.
DCF went to the Stevenson home to investigate the claims and based on what they saw during their visit they did not find that the situation called for taking the children out of their mother’s care.
When the Sheriff’s Office went to Stevenson’s house to perform their own inspection of the allegations, they recorded that the dwelling was very unkempt, suffering from a roach infestation, and lacking appropriate food. Stevenson’s bedroom was reported as the most orderly in the home, and the authorities located non-perishable food items that were stored inside that room.
The deputies determined that Stevenson’s children were being neglected by her due to the way they perceived her lifestyle after their visit, and she was taken into custody, while her kids were taken from the home. She is being charged for suspicion of child neglect without bodily harm, for which she is facing five felonies.
Upon posting $2500 bail, Stevenson was released from custody with a no-contact order preventing her from interacting with her five little ones.
Stevenson consented to an interview with a local news station, and she allowed them to enter her residence with their camera crew as she spoke to them about the charges against her. She disclosed her belief that the Sheriff’s Office is treating her “unfairly” to make an example of her, especially when accounting for their decision to remove her children in opposition what DCF concluded during their investigation.
As the news crew and Stevenson walked through the home it appeared to be in a state that suggests she had been making a strong effort to tend to the problems in the house. The video depicted large cockroaches, which are an unfortunate and very common pest that plague most homes and shut down large amounts of restaurants in the area regularly so that they may be exterminated.
Stevenson explained that she is employed at a convenience store and trying to balance single motherhood of her five children. She also told the reporter, “I’m not a bad mom, I do everything I can. I work hard,” and expressed her strong will and determination to continue to create the best possible life for her family. Stevenson added that she does want to get rid of the roaches, but the rather large expense of doing so has proven to be a burden.
Stevenson will appear in court on May 30 regarding the allegations, which could result in her spending 25 years behind bars if she is found guilty and issued the maximum penalty.
In response to the possibility of Stevenson being incarcerated for such a long period, Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille reported that even if she were found guilty she would most likely not be issued the full penalty.
If you or someone you love is suspected of child neglect, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.