The Bizarre World of Florida

Girl, 3, left in liquor store as mom scrambled to stash boyfriend’s gun February 19, 2015

A 3-year-old stood frozen in fear inside a Deerfield Beach liquor store as her mother scrambled to hide a handgun after her boyfriend shot himself in the leg, authorities said.

liquorStefanie Felicia Stern, 28, was arrested Tuesday and faces charges of child neglect without great bodily harm and tampering with evidence, jail records show. She is accused of leaving her daughter alone in a liquor store while she and her boyfriend disposed of a gun with which he had shot himself.

During first-appearance court Wednesday, Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley set Stern’s bond at $2,000 and appointed a guardian for her daughter.

“She left her daughter alone in the liquor store and placed her in harm’s way,” Hurley read from a report. “The daughter is seen frozen in fear as she witnesses these events.”

Stern was with her daughter and Reginald Leon Lee, 34, inside the B21 Liquor store at 4591 N. Dixie Hwy. on Dec. 22 when Lee started arguing with another customer, according to her arrest warrant.
Lee chased the customer out of the store with a gun; when he walked back inside he fumbled with his pants and shot himself in the right leg, the warrant said. Lee then handed the gun to Stern and the two ran to a nearby alley to hide the gun, leaving the child in the store.

When deputies arrived at the liquor store, Lee told them he had been shot by a stranger and he needed an ambulance, the warrant said. Lee was taken to Broward Health North, where he refused to cooperate with authorities. Lee is not facing charges.

Stern told detectives she did not see what happened or how Lee had been shot, the warrant said.

Detectives went to the liquor store the next day and viewed surveillance footage that shows the argument, Lee shooting himself, and he and Stern leaving the child and trying to hide the gun, the warrant said.


Mom slams on brakes of car to stop children from arguing; arrested for child abuse February 2, 2015

According to Port St. Lucie police, Lorena Sullivan Simpson told police she was trying to stop her children from arguing.

Mugshot-Lorena-Sullivan-SimpsonPolice said Simpson was driving with her 12-year-old daughter in the front seat. Her 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were in the back seat when she told them to stop arguing and slammed on the brakes.

“I didn’t on purpose or intentionally harm my daughter,” said Sullivan Simpson.

806B00D17D6C4ACFA067EB86BAF94011-jpgAccording to the investigation, the girl in the front seat was not wearing a seat belt and went head first into the windshield.

Police said the windshield was cracked and Simpson didn’t take her daughter to get medical attention after having a headache and feeling dizzy.

Simpson explained she had no idea anything was wrong until officials from the Department of Children and Families showed up with police three days later.

“There was no bump, so I’m sorry but I guess I did the wrong thing,” said Simpson.

Simpson was arrested on charges of child abuse and was booked in the St. Lucie County jail.

She’s out on bond.


Kids jump out of car, report mom for DUI January 22, 2015

A 45-year-old mother in Gainesville faces child neglect and drug charges after four children said they jumped out of the car she was driving because she was drunk, according to the Gainesville Police Department.

sfl-flduh-kids-mom-dui-20150121-001Angela R. Woodworth was arrested Tuesday and charged with four felony counts of child neglect, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting an officer without violence.

According to police, four 11-year-old children — Woodworth’s son and three of his friends — entered a Steak ‘n Shake at 3714 SW 42nd St. claiming Woodworth was drunk and in fear they jumped out of the car she was driving.

“It was like a little girl screaming for help,” said Kenisha Drayton, who witnessed the incident. “We really didn’t see what was going on, but all we heard was someone screaming.”

Josh Kramer said he helped the kids — two boys and two girls — at the Steak ‘N Shake. He was there eating when the children ran inside.

“One of the boys told me his mom, they just left Ruby Tuesday, and his mom was really drunk and swerving all over the road,” Kramer said. “She hit a pole and broke a mirror off her car. They came to a stop. When they came to a stop, the kids jumped out of the car and ran into the restaurant.”

Kramer said he immediately called 911 and while he was on the phone with a dispatcher, Woodworth showed up and was screaming at the children, telling them to come with her.

“The kids took off running around the restaurant. She started following them around the restaurant,” Kramer said. “I finally got them back up front and told them to stay on the sidewalk, police would be here in a second and they didn’t need to be scared. I was helping them out.”

Police said when an officer arrived at the restaurant, the children ran to the officer for safety.

“They were not in a parking space, so we could only assume that her driving was so bad at that point that she couldn’t even make it into the parking space,” GPD Officer Ben Tobias said. “We are very glad that the children were not hurt.”

Police said the children told them that during the day Woodworth drove them from their home in Interlachen to Gainesville, where they went to several locations, including a Chinese restaurant, a bowling alley — where Woodworth drank two pitchers of beer — and Ruby Tuesday, where she had four drinks. Police confirmed the purchase of the drinks with charge receipts. The children said they roamed the mall unsupervised while Woodworth was at Ruby Tuesday.

Officers said Woodworth refused to comply with them and interfered with the investigation when they first made contact with her. They also said she showed signs of extreme impairment.

Police said a search of Woodworth’s vehicle revealed about 2 grams of marijuana and a marijuana pipe under the driver’s seat.

Woodworth was arrested and officers notified the Department of Children and Families. Police said Woodworth’s son is with relatives and the boy’s three friends were returned to their parents.

“Hopefully she gets the help that she needs and the punishment that she deserves to put somebody’s kids and her own kids behind that kind of dangerous situation right there,” said Travis Smith, who witnessed the incident. “I’ll pray for her.”


Mom drove with son on top of car January 13, 2015

A Winter Springs mother is out of jail after being charged with child abuse, after police say she drove off with her son on top of her vehicle.

sfl-flduh-mom-son-top-car-20150109-001Tojuana Lowe was arrested on Thursday morning when an officer saw a juvenile on top of her black Mazda on North Moss Road, turning onto State Road 434, according to the report.

Police said Lowe told them the son jumped on her vehicle to prevent her from leaving the residence and she drove off, thinking it would scare him.

The boy remained on the vehicle as she kept driving through the Moss Park Apartments,jumped off and then immediately jumped back on the hood of the vehicle, according to the report.

Lowe said she was attempting to call 911 on her cellphone when she saw a Winter Springs police officer and pulled over to tell the officer the situation.

Police said Lowe told them she knew it was wrong for her to drive the vehicle while the boy was on top and unsecured but thought he would jump off.

Lowe was driving at around 20 to 25 miles per hour on SR 434 for about 600 yards, according to the report.

Lowe was arrested and taken to Seminole County jail. She was out of jail Friday night.


Mom left infant sitting at bar while she danced January 8, 2015

A woman who left her 1-year-old child sitting alone at a Boynton Beach bar was arrested Sunday, police said.

fl-boynton-drinking-mom-neglect-20150105-001Concerned customers at Banana Boat Lounge and Restaurant, at 739 E. Ocean Ave., told police a woman, later identified as Ashton Krauss, 28, of Ocean Ridge, went to an outdoor bar in the back of the restaurant at about 5:30 p.m. and put the child in a high chair.

After ordering a drink and food, Krauss left her table to dance and socialize as the child cried alone, according to the report.

Customers began asking Krauss to sit down with the child. She instead picked the child up and began spinning around before hitting a bar stool and falling down with the child landing on her, customers told police.

Customers and staff rushed in to try and help the woman and child but that caused Krauss to get angry, according to the report.

Police arrived and said Krauss was violent and belligerent. Officers found a half-empty, 16 oz. can of Michelob Ultra in her car’s center console and a closed 16 oz.-can of Angry Orchard cider beer in her purse, according to the report.

The woman’s uncle took custody of the child as Krauss was taken to jail.

Krauss is facing child neglect and disorderly conduct in an establishment charges and was booked into Palm Beach County Jail where she is held in lieu of $3,000 bail.


Kids left in car for hours after grown-ups jailed January 7, 2015


Three young children spent seven hours alone in a car in a Wal-Mart parking lot after their parents were arrested and accused of shoplifting at the store, authorities said.

According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Tosheba Hope, 30, and Gerald Moultrie, 24, were arrested about 7 p.m. Monday at the Wal-Mart, 3001 N. State Road 7, and accused of grand theft.

After being arrested, the two failed to mention that three children — ages 2, 7 and 9 — were waiting for them in their parked car, said Gina Carter, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. Hope is the mother of the three children; Moultrie is the father of one of them, she said.

The children were discovered about 2 a.m. Tuesday by a store employee who then searched for their parents inside the store. The children were upset and crying, but not physically hurt, Carter said.

When store employees couldn’t locate the parents inside, they alerted authorities, who then realized they had arrested the pair hours earlier, Carter said.

In a 911 recording released by the sheriff’s office Tuesday, a woman told the dispatcher that “the kids are calling for their mom.” Their voices barely audible on the recording, they are heard giving their ages to the woman who relayed the information to the dispatcher.

The 911 caller said announcements were made in the store and she “walked the store, walked the store, walked the store” in search of the mother. While reporting the abandoned children to 911, the woman offered them water, juice and chips.

On Tuesday, the children were in the care of relatives, according to Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes.

Hope, of Lauderhill, and Moultrie, of Miramar, were charged with grand theft, but it’s likely that they will also face child neglect charges, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.

According to a sheriff’s arrest report, Hope and Moultrie picked up tools and vehicle accessories valued at $660 and failed to stop at a cash register to pay for them. As they left the store, a Wal-Mart employee stopped them, it said.
The two had a first-appearance court hearing Tuesday on the theft charges before Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley. Both were released from jail without paying a bond. Attempts to reach the two by phone were unsuccessful.

Hope told the judge that she had three small children and was “probably pregnant” with another.


Couple Charged With Murder After Baby Found Starved To Death At Golden Corral January 2, 2015

The parents of a 22-day-old girl have been charged with murdering their child.
According to the Polk County, Florida Medical Examiner, the baby, Betsey Kee Stephens, “died of malnutrition as a result of starvation.”
Lakeland Police responded to assist emergency crews with an unresponsive infant at the Golden Corral located at 4705 US Hwy 98 North on Dec. 23. at 6:10 p.m.
Ruby-StephensThe baby’s parents, Ruby Stephens, 23, and Roy Stephens, 48, from Tennyson, Indiana, said they were in Lakeland visiting family.
Earlier in the day, they checked into the Comfort Inn located at 3520 US Hwy 98 North, according to police.  The mother told police she had checked Betsey’s feet and they appeared to be cold.  She covered them with a blanket.
The Stephens told police after checking into the hotel, they drove to the Golden Coral restaurant to meet family and have dinner.
After arriving at the restaurant, Ruby said she checked Betsey’s feet again.  She told police they were unusually cold and the infant did not respond.  She called 911.
Betsey was declared dead at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
The Stephens also had a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl with them at the time of the incident.  Both children are now in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Preliminary investigation indicates Betsey was dead for over three hours before 911 was called.
Both parents are charged with first-degree murder.


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