Parents arrested, kids living in deplorable conditions

Evan Axelbank reports

- Deputies have arrested a Winter Haven couple on child neglect and drug charges after two kids were found living in conditions almost too deplorable to describe.

Authorities said that amidst the filth, the rotting food, the bathtub filled with water and roaches, they found two toddlers. Most that age couldn't fend for themselves in the best of situations, let alone in those conditions.

"It's absolutely unthinkable, what these poor children had to endure," said Winter Haven Police spokeswoman Jamie Brown.

A neighbor to the home at 896 Ave. M SW told the landlord they were concerned about drugs. The landlord called Winter Haven Police.

When officers knocked, suspect Ashley Barnett let them in.

"Ms. Barnett opened the door, and immediately the pungent odor of urine and feces hit them in the face," said Brown.

Police said they found signs of meth and there was no running water. The toilets were inoperable and stains covered the beds.

"Obviously, drugs overtook them," said Brown.

FOX 13 has learned that the city turned off the water in the home two weeks ago, and that Richard Barnett was fired from a landscaping company on Friday for frequent tardiness.

Edwin Munoz rented a home they used to live in, and found similar conditions before he had the place cleaned.

"When you opened the door, you felt like throwing up, like maybe something died in there," Munoz said.

The affidavit said Ashley Barnett told police DCF had recently examined the home and found it to be acceptable, though DCF cited confidentiality in not responding to that claim.

Either way, the Barnetts are behind bars, and the kids are with a relative.

"Hopefully they will never, ever, have to be in that kind of environment again," said Brown.

Barnett, admitted she was under DCF investigation, and DCF will at least confirm that much. Both Barnetts are being charged with child neglect and possession of drugs.

Police fear long term damage may have already been done to both children.


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