TAMPA — All that keeps Angel Yulee Adams, homeless mother of 15, in a jail cell is the answer to one question:
Is she or isn't she pregnant?
Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan demanded an answer again on Friday.
Adams, 37, looked small and forlorn, handcuffed in a too-big orange jail jumpsuit. TV cameras zoomed in, waiting. She looked away from the judge. She didn't say a word.
Her attorney told the judge Adams thinks it's her own business. "She believes the question of pregnancy is of a personal nature," he said.
The judge believes the answer is crucial to ensuring that Adams' children are safe. If Adams is pregnant with a 16th child, Sheehan said she wants to know who the father is, and whether he plans to live with Adams and her children.
Adams' attorney, Scott Horvat, provided the names of four family members who have contact with the children. But lacking an answer to the pregnancy question, Sheehan quickly sent Adams back to jail, where the judge sent her Thursday after finding her in contempt of court.
"It doesn't sound like she's getting out anytime soon," Sheehan said.
She scheduled the next hearing for May 27.
The judge said Adams' 12 youngest, all of whom are under 18, would remain at A Kid's Place, a children's shelter near Brandon.
"They've been through an awful lot," Sheehan said. "All they've got is each other."
It was the 30th time Adams had appeared before the judge in 21 months. Sheehan was clearly fed up.
Over that time, Adams lost custody of her children after sheriff's deputies found neglect, then she got them back six months ago. But Adams lost her home after failing to pay rent to the Tampa Housing Authority, then recently was evicted from a two-bedroom rental apartment. All her things were dumped at the curb. She and 12 children wound up in a small motel room on E Busch Boulevard.
Social-service agencies got Adams and her children into a temporary cottage at A Kid's Place. They paid off her $6,000 debt to the Tampa Housing Authority and earlier this week found a rent-free, six-bedroom home for the family.
Adams would have moved into the house on Friday if not for refusing to answer the judge's question.
After she refused, the issue became the fate of the children.
Jerome Jacob told the judge he was the father of two of them. He came to court with his mother, Juanita Jacob. He asked Sheehan to place those two children in his custody. He said his mother would help care for them.
Sheehan asked if Jerome Jacob was supporting the children. He said he had bought them "shoes and stuff." She asked if he was paying child support. He said he hadn't been able to do that since having surgery on his knee.
She rejected his custody request.
The judge also placed a call to the attorney of another father of some of the children. That father, Garry Brown, is serving five years in prison for a cocaine conviction. On a speaker phone, the attorney said Brown was "unavailable."
Adams' attorney said she would prefer that the children remain together in the care of her family, which took them in the last time they were removed from her.
Sheehan said those family members would be asked again.
The judge said Adams can make phone calls from jail to the children's shelter.
"It would be nice if the kids could talk to their mom."