A Florida couple was arrested for alleged child abuse after a kid in their home set a mattress on fire in an apparent desperate attempt to escape a locked, filthy bedroom, authorities said.
Parents Kelley Lynne Davis, 36, and Daniel Andrew Davis, 37, are facing aggravated child abuse charges after deputies responded Monday to a reported arson at their home in Spring Hill, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters during a press conference Tuesday.
At the home they found a child under the age of 10 who had been living in a bedroom with two exterior locks, no electricity and feces and urine covering the floor, Nocco said.
“This is heartbreaking,” Nocco said. “This child was horribly treated out there. And so, you know, as a law enforcement officer, they say be tough, be strong, I’ll tell you, this is one of those cases that just hearing about it, it will keep me up.”
Nocco declined to release the victim’s age, gender or relationship to the couple, citing state privacy laws, the Tampa Bay Times reported. But deputies said the couple also has five daughters, none of whom were treated like the young victim.
The Davises allegedly admitted to investigators that they had kept the child locked away in the decrepit bedroom for up to 12 hours a day, as well as anytime the kid misbehaved, according to arrest reports cited by the newspaper.
Nocco said the youngster got a pack of matches from another child inside the home and started the blaze while living in a “room where no human being should live,” WFTS reported.
The room had just a blanket and a mattress inside, and the child didn’t have access to television and video games like the other children, Nocco said.
“We don’t treat the worst in our society like the way this child lived,” the sheriff said. “The pictures will never give them justice to the horrors and the blackening of the soul that this child had to live through.”
Nocco said investigators were looking into whether the child started the fire in order to get help from authorities, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“We don’t know that at this time, we’re still talking,” Nocco said. “But at the same, there was somebody in that home that cared. There was somebody that broke that Stockholm syndrome … and recognized they needed to do something.”
The couple’s daughters range in age from infancy to 10 years old and are now in the care of the state’s Department of Children and Families, a Pasco County sheriff’s spokeswoman told the Tampa Bay Times.
Deputies said all of children were homeschooled and rarely left the residence, WFTS reported.
Daniel Davis, allegedly admitted that the conditions the victim lived in were deplorable – not even suitable for the family’s pets, according to the station.
“He freely admitted that the dogs that in that home are in better living condition than the child victim,” Pasco County Det. Randall Jones told reporters.