Bartow, FL – A 30-year-old mother of four has been given two years of house arrest, community service, and 13 years of probation as part of her plea deal for child neglect. However, there is a condition. The mothers has to agree to not have any more children, at least not until the end of her probationary period. The deal also requires that she not be allowed to have unsupervised contact with minors. The defendant was originally charged with child neglect and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but those chargers were commuted under the plea deal. She could have received five years in jail.
WTSP 10News reports Kimberly Lightsey abandoned her young children in a hotel room, at the Howard Johnson’s Motel in Winter Haven, while she went out to party in October 2011. Lightsey’s neglect was exposed when a witness found one of the children in an overturned stroller in a hallway, and guests reported hearing the children crying.
The children’s ages ranged from 11 and younger and one of the children has epilepsy, while another suffers from cerebral palsy. Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorders characterized by seizures. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a developmental disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and coordinated motor skills. This physical disability is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before (congenital defect), or during the first few years of a child’s life.
Police found the rest of the children asleep in the room without adult supervision. Officers described the condition of the room as ‘in complete disarray’ with trash, food, and clothing strewn about.
The abandoned children told officers that a woman named ‘Simone’ was supposed to periodically look in on them but the children were unable to give the exact room number where Simone was staying. When officers finally found ‘Simone’ she explained that Lightsey had asked her to check in on the kids, but left before telling her which room they were in or the extent of their physical handicaps. Simone claimed to make efforts to contact Lightsey on her cell, with no answer. Simone didn’t appear to make efforts to locate the children herself. Upon Lightsey’s return to the hotel she was detained and her children were turned over to relatives.
At the time of her arrest, Lightsey was still subject to a four year probation stemming from a ‘no contest to child abuse’ charge for allegedly hitting her six-year-old son in the face with a belt in 2009.
The crime of child neglect is classified as a third degree felony and is assigned a Level 6 offense severity ranking under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. Florida utilizes the Criminal Punishment Code (CPC) scoring system to determine the minimum allowable sentence for all felony crimes. Under the CPC, every felony offense is assigned an Offense Level between 1 and 10, which then carries a point value; the more serious the crime, the higher the offense level.
If convicted of child neglect in Florida, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties: up to five years in prison, up to five years of probation, and up to $5,000 in fines.
Data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), reports a nationally estimated 1,560 children died from abuse and neglect in 2010. Those deaths were the totals ‘reported’ from family facilities around the country. Of those numbers, usually less than half are ever included in the statistics because officials were unaware of their official existence.
The Child Death Review informs that 2,282 children under the age of 18 lost their lives in Florida during 2010. Of those children who died, 507 were reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Of the child deaths reported to the hotline, and died in 2010, 155 were verified as child abuse or neglect. The state of Florida spent $18 million on programs (Healthy Families Florida) focused on preventing child abuse and neglect in 2011.
Among the over 145,000 children served by Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country from January through June 2012 statistics include:
- 54,529 children were ages 0 to 6 years
- 53,179 children were ages 7 to 12 years
- 36,921 children were ages 13 to 18 years
- 100,649 children reported sexual abuse
- 25,381 children reported physical abuse
- 99,613 children participated in on-site forensic interviewing at a Children’s Advocacy Center
Do you feel there are better ways to deter child abuse and neglect? Do you agree with the judge’s decision to honor the plea deal and restrict her reproductive rights?
[Photo credit Baynews9.com]