A 14-year-old girl in Florida called an abuse hotline to say she was contemplating suicide because of the horrific living conditions she and her siblings had been forced to endure.
After receiving the call, the hotline contacted the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office who made a visit to the home and found “deplorable living conditions” including animal feces in every room of the home, rotting food and an infestation of roaches, according to a statement released by the department.
Parents Betty Nicolicchia Allen, 42, and Dennis Allen, 33, are now each facing five counts of child neglect.
The investigation into the family began after the 14-year-old girl's Halloween call to an abuse hotline to report her suicidal thoughts. She told the hotline she was being emotionally and physically abused by her mother and was living in horrible conditions, authorities said.
She also said that although her family claimed she was being homeschooled, she wasn’t being taught anything and instead was being forced to watch her four younger siblings—ages 6, 8, 9 and 12—while her parents worked long hours, the sheriff’s office said.
The abuse hotline contacted local authorities, who went out to the home to investigate.
“FCSO responded to the residence on Water Oak Road in Bunnell and immediately noticed that the home was in complete disarray. The grass in the front yard was high enough to hide a small child and littered with gas cans, beer cans, rust covered metal materials, and other trash,” the statement said, adding that fecal matter from two chickens allowed to freely roam the property covered the family’s front porch.
The conditions inside the home were allegedly just as disturbing. The family’s one bathroom had no running water and had a hose running from outside into the shower through a window. The children reported that they had not been bathed in three days to a week and said they had to go to a nearby fish camp whenever they did need to bathe. The toilet also looked as though it had “been used for days on end with no way to discard the waste” inside the bowl, the sheriff’s office said.
In the kitchen, there was no edible food in the refrigerator and just one bag of frozen chicken in the freezer.
“Every room of the home contained an abundance of animal feces, animal urine, rotting food, roaches, and other flying insects,” the statement said, adding that trash was so thick that it stuck to deputy’s boots as they walked through the home.
Sheriff Rick Staly called the conditions a “traumatic situation” for the children.
“Halloween is a day where kids should be out having fun, not contemplating ending their life,” he said. “I want to commend this girl for calling the Abuse Hotline and being brave enough to ask for help.”
Staly said he is “thankful” the children “are now safe from these two individuals who obviously don’t know how to properly care for children.”
The children are now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. One of the children was taken into protective custody under the state’s Baker Act because of comments made to the Abuse Hotline.
The Baker Act is a law in the state that allows people to be involuntarily held for up to 72 hours to receive mental health treatment if its determined they may harm themselves or another person, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The law can also be used if there is reason to believe the person is mentally ill or the person has refused a voluntary examination due to a possible mental illness.
Nicolicchia-Allen and Allen were taken into custody and are being held at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility on $5,000 bond each.
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