GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When authorities visited a home in Gainesville, they found what they described as appalling conditions for three young children living there: virtually no food in the kitchen, the children sleeping on a bare mattress with no sheets or blankets, two of the children with rotten teeth and a cocaine pipe in plain view.
The 6-year-old – whose identity police have withheld – had suffered burns to her ear and hands. She told authorities that the burns, including one on the tip of her finger and another on the palm of her other hand, were painful. Police said the child couldn’t articulate how the burns occurred and later said they believed she was being purposefully vague.
The 8-year-old told police she didn’t know how her sister received the burns and confirmed they all were sleeping in the living room on the bare mattress or other furniture in the room.
A sheriff’s deputy wrote in court records that the cone of silence continued with the other children when authorities asked whether they had been warned against discussing any abuse or their living conditions. The 4-year-old boy – who acknowledged that he often went to bed hungry – smiled, raised his finger to his lips and answered, “I don’t know.”
How the children suffered without notice until a teacher saw the girl’s burns remains a mystery for now. The family lived in an apartment on the west side of Gainesville in the shadow of some of the city’s priciest subdivisions. For now, the children’s father is in jail, the children are in protective custody and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is building a criminal case.
The father, Jeffery Thompson, 40, of Gainesville, remained in the county jail on Monday after his arrest over the weekend following a complaint that he was trespassing at a gas station. Thompson is facing three counts of misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors, according to court records. His jail mug shot showed what appeared to be a recent gash across his nose. It wasn’t clear how or when he was injured.
Sheriff’s deputies said in court records that Thompson denied knowing about the child’s burns and acknowledged using cocaine. He also confirmed the children sleep in the living room but said they have air mattresses. He also admitted to the lack of food but that they go to a store and get dinner every day, according to court records.
Thompson’s mother, Dawn Thompson, told authorities Thompson and Connie Hagen, the children’s mother, argued about money and drugs and left the children alone in the living room for hours.
Dawn Thompson said Thompson would sell food stamp benefits for money to buy drugs. She also claimed the two oldest children were allowed to walk to the bus stop alone through the high-crime area they live in.
Thompson’s court case arraignment is set for Oct. 9.
The chronology of the case is complicated. Deputies and the Department of Children and Families investigators talked to the children at their school in March, which led them to conduct a home visit.
After deputies investigated the home and spoke with Thompson, they charged him with three felony counts of child neglect and one felony count of obstructing justice. According to the Alachua County Clerk of Court, the child neglect charges were transferred to another court and the obstructing justice charge was dropped.
The court summoned Thompson at the end of July, but the summons was not executed.
Deputies issued a warrant Sept. 7 for Thompson’s arrest for three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which can include neglect or abuse. Thompson didn’t come into contact with authorities until they were notified of someone trespassing at a Circle K gas station, located at 4310 SE Hawthorne Road, Saturday night.
After deputies arrived at the gas station and identified Thompson, they informed Thompson of the warrants out for his arrest, at which point he attempted to run away and resist arrest, according to the arrest report.
Thompson now has an additional charge for resisting arrest and is in jail with no bond posted.
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