A woman in the Florida panhandle was arrested last week after it became aware that her five children were living in unspeakable squalor, including going to school with a backpack full of insects.
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office took Jessica Stevenson into custody on Friday, charging her with child neglect without causing great bodily harm and setting her bond at $12,500.
The Florida Department of Children and Families were alerted to the neglect after a Bagdad Elementary School staff member filed a report last month concerning three of the children attending the school.
The staff member became suspicious after one child -who is in the second grade- was wearing the same clothes for an entire week and had considerable body odor. When the employee asked the child when they last had a bath, the child could not recall.
Providing the student with new clothes, the employee soon found “hundreds of bugs” crawling out of the child’s backpack, infesting the lunch room. Furthermore, the clothes that were replaced were caked with urine and fecal matter.
Another teacher later med with Stevenson, who “immediately berated her after assuming it was her who called DCF.”
According to the Pensacola News Journal, Stevenson continued to send the kids to school without baths or new clothes, getting to the point where the school was providing clothing repeatedly after the previously-provided clothes wore out.
One teacher recounted that one of the kids was having meltdowns and seemed depressed.
Santa Rosa deputies came to the Stevenson residence not long after, and discovered a house of horrors unfit for habitation, with roaches “on nearly every surface of the home,” no edible food, and rancid, rotting garbage in the fridge.
Despite the overall condition of the home, Stevenson’s bedroom was relatively clean and a hidden supply of snacks.
The neglectful mother made bond the day after her arrest, and has been ordered not to contact her children. In an interview with local station WEAR, she claimed she was a “good mom” who was being targeted by the school.
“I’m not a bad mom, I do everything I can. I work hard,” Stevenson said. “It’s not easy when you’re one person and five kids. I want to do better and I’m trying.”
Stevenson faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if found guilty on all five counts.
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