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Florida mother living in deplorable conditions allegedly fed daughter bleach in bottle: authorities

A Tampa, Florida, mother who was living in a shed with no power was arrested Monday, after she allegedly fed her 13-month-old baby bleach in a bottle, according to authorities.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said 22-year-old Melissa Barnes faces charges of child abuse and child neglect for matters dating back to January.

On Jan. 2, 2024, a relative of Barnes’ reported to the sheriff’s office that Barnes had given her 13-month-old daughter a bottle with bleach inside.

The relative told authorities that Barnes and the child were living in a shed with no electricity, which the relative described as cold, cluttered and unsanitary.

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The sheriff’s office said the relative took the child out of the shed and attempted to feed her the bottle, but the toddler refused to drink from it.

The relative reportedly inspected the bottle and discovered it contained bleach, the sheriff’s office alleged.

Barnes claimed she used bleach to rinse the bottle when asked about what was inside.

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Hillsborough County Sheriff Cruiser and two officers standing by police tape

After a full investigation conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit, the Department of Children and Families removed the toddler from Barnes’ care and placed her with a relative.

Detectives then obtained and executed a search warrant at the shed and located bleach-based disinfectant and paint, the sheriff’s office said.

The contents of the bottle were sent to the FBI laboratory for further analysis, and it was ultimately determined that chlorine-based bleach was present.

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police car lights

After receiving confirmation, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Barnes on May 28, for charges of child abuse and child neglect.

She was taken into custody by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office on June 3, and currently remains in jail, pending extradition to Hillsborough County at a later date.

“This case is deeply disturbing. No child deserves to be subjected to such dangerous and neglectful conditions,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is committed to protecting our community’s most vulnerable, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that those who harm children are held accountable.”

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