'Hundreds of Bugs' Crawl Out of Girl's Backpack, Mom Arrested

Jessica Stevenson has been charged with felony child neglect
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2019 7:30 AM CDT

When a Florida second grader came to Bagdad Elementary School in Milton with an undesirable smell and soiled clothes, a staffer found out from the little girl she didn't remember the last time she'd bathed. Then, "hundreds of bugs crawled out" of the child's backpack in the school cafeteria, per a police report cited by the Pensacola News Journal. A call from the school spurred the Florida Department of Children and Families to get involved, which is what then prompted the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office to open an investigation April 18 into the child's home life—which in turn led to the arrest of the child's mother, 33-year-old Jessica Stevenson, who has been charged with five counts of felony child abuse.

ABC News reports authorities found the girl's clothes were so dirty there was "caked-on fecal matter and urine soaked in," while a home visit revealed roaches and trash throughout the residence, per the police report. The girl and four siblings slept on dirty mattresses on the floor, and authorities found no edible food around. Stevenson's own room, however, was "abnormally clean." Stevenson tells WEAR she knows she has a bug problem—"people all the time tell me everyone in Florida has roaches"—but says she's trying to remedy it. "It's not easy when you're [a single mother] and five kids," she says. "I want to do better and I'm trying." Stevenson was released from jail on May 4 on $2,500 bond. It's unclear what the status of her children, ages 5 to 14, is: ABC notes they've "temporarily" been removed from her care, while WEAR reports DCF decided after a visit that the kids could stay with her. (More Florida stories.)

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