SANTA ROSA COUNTY, FL (Gray News) - A teacher at Bagdad Elementary School knew something wasn’t right at home when she saw a second grader wearing the same outfit for a whole week last month.
Deputies arrested Jessica Stevenson on May 3 and charged her with five counts of child neglect without causing great bodily harm. She made bail the next day and was released from custody. (Source: Santa Rosa County Jail)
The child’s body odor had become impossible to ignore, likely caused by the layer of dirt, fecal matter and urine covering her clothes, the Pensacola News Journal reported.
In the cafeteria, hundreds of bugs crawled out of her backpack. The teacher said the girl repeatedly cried, had meltdowns and showed signs of depression.
She couldn’t tell the teacher the last time she’d taken a bath or showered.
The girl has four siblings, ages 5 to 14. Two of them attend Bagdad Elementary with her.
Deputies from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department went to their home and found roaches on just about every surface.
Bugs crawled on the floor, across the children’s mattresses, inside pots and pans, from the cabinets and inside the fridge.
The only food they could find in the kitchen was spoiled milk, rotten eggs, a stick of butter and sugar. A microwave dangled from the window, still plugged into the wall.
Even so, nothing could prepare them for what they saw in the mother’s bedroom.
Deputies opened the door, and it was clean. They said 33-year-old Jessica Nicole Stevenson had fresh linens, a closet full of clean clothes, a flat-screen TV and a stash of snacks.
Deputies arrested her on May 3 and charged her with five counts of child neglect without causing great bodily harm. She made bail the next day and was released from custody.
Another teacher at the elementary school said she’d met with Stevenson. But that meeting quickly turned confrontational when Stevenson, who assumed she was the teacher who called Florida’s Department of Children and Families, began berating her.
The teacher told investigators one of the siblings had been repeatedly given new clothes to wear by the school. Each time, the same outfit would be worn day after day until the school replaced it.
Stevenson told WEAR she’s not a bad mom and feels like authorities are unfairly targeting her.
“We have roaches. People all the time tell me everyone in Florida has roaches,” 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 up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all five counts. She has been ordered not to make contact with her children.
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