Florida mother charged with felony child abuse after children found living in roach-infested home

MILTON, Fla. — A Florida woman, Jessica Stevenson, was arrested and charged with five felony counts of child abuse after it was discovered her children were living in unfit conditions.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that a Bagdad Elementary School staff member made a report with the Florida Department of Children and Families concerning three siblings who went to the school. WEAR reported that a Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office report said school staff alerted a school resource officer on April 18 about a second grade student appearing to be living in poor conditions.

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According to the report, one of the siblings, a second grader, had a noticeable body odor and was seen wearing the same clothes for a full week in April. When the employee asked the student when she last had a bath, the student said she didn’t know.

The employee gave the student new clothes to wear in exchange for the old outfit, the report said. The old clothes were reported as being “heavily soiled” and that there was “caked on fecal matter and urine soaked in.”

WEAR reported that, in another incident, "hundreds of bugs" crawled out of the student's backpack during lunch.

Police went to the child’s Milton, Florida, home and reported that it was infested with roaches, was barely furnished and that there was rotten food in the fridge.

"The roaches were on nearly every surface in the home, to include on the children's mattress, in the pots and pans in the kitchen, and inside the cabinets/fridge," the report said, according to CNN.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, the report said that Stevenson’s room was clean with few roaches and had snacks stashed away.

"The amount of neglect in this case is very disturbing," Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said, according to WEAR.

According to the report, the second grade student has four siblings. Three of the five siblings attend Bagdad Elementary. The siblings are between ages 5 and 14.

The report said that Florida Department of Children and Families officials were alerted to the problem before the Santa Rosa Sheriff. DCF determined that the conditions did not meet its criteria to remove the children from the home, WEAR reported.

When police became involved, they arrested the children’s mother, 33-year-old Stevenson, and gave her five felony neglect charges, one for each child. Stevenson was jailed May 3 and made bond the next day.

“I’m not a bad mom, I do everything I can. I work hard,” Stevenson told WEAR May 7. She said the school and Sheriff’s Office targeted her, according to the local news station.

Stevenson said she was given a no contact order for her children because of her charges.

When asked about the roaches, she said: “We have roaches. People all the time tell me everyone in Florida has roaches.”

“It’s not easy when you’re one person and five kids,” she said. “I want to do better and I’m trying.”

CNN reported that Stevenson is scheduled to be arraigned May 30 in Milton, according to the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Courts.