Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

After fire, state takes children from Spring Hill couple

A doublewide at 18815 Old Shady Hills Road burns to the ground Friday morning. Five adults and two young boys escaped.


A doublewide at 18815 Old Shady Hills Road burns to the ground Friday morning. Five adults and two young boys escaped.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two young Pasco County boys with cognitive disabilities were flown early Friday to Tampa General Hospital, where nurses examined them after their rescue from a mobile home fire.

Because of what the nurses found, the boys will not go home with their parents, a judge decided Monday.

The boys were treated for smoke inhalation. But as nurses looked the boys over, they noticed more problems.

What first appeared to be soot in the boys' mouths was actually severe tooth decay, according to a report from the Pasco Sheriff's Child Protective Investigation Unit. Nurses found the boys — one age 5 and 35 pounds and the other age 6 and 41 pounds — were "grossly underweight and malnourished," the report states. Investigators began looking into their parents' pasts.

A collection of Child Protective Services investigations over the years paints Jesse and Tammie Ledbetter as terribly irresponsible parents.

Tammie Ledbetter's parental rights were revoked for six children she had before the boys. Reports allege that her children were found in neighbors' yards without her knowledge while she was supposed to be supervising them and that she had sex in front of one of her children.

In a case from 2002, reports state, she touched them inappropriately. Another report states that Ledbetter was found in the shower, soaping herself with one hand while she used the other to feed one of her children who was perched in a car seat on the shower's ledge.

The reports state an evaluation by Sexual Health Awareness Rehabilitation Education showed Jesse Ledbetter admitted to sexually abusing a 9-year-old nephew in 1995. Doctors recommended that he not be allowed to live with his sons until he underwent therapy. The two boys were taken away from the family in 2008 and reunited with Tammie a year later, but not with Jesse. He is not allowed to be alone with the children because he did not complete the sex offender treatment, the report states.

Reports state Tammie continued to allow him to interact with the children unsupervised.

The fire on Friday engulfed the family's doublewide mobile home on Old Shady Hills Road. Five adults, ranging in age from 35 to 80, and the two boys made their way out of the burning home, a fire rescue spokesman said. The family lost the home and everything inside, including eight animals. The fire's cause is still being investigated.

In a custody hearing Monday morning, Tammie Ledbetter meticulously listed the medications she gives the boys to treat their attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorders. Both boys also have Asperger syndrome. The 5-year-old also has cerebral palsy. She said they are underweight because of their medication and that she feeds both of them Pediasure to keep them healthy.

"My kid would eat anybody out of their house and home," Tammie Ledbetter said in an interview after the hearing.

Judge Thomas Ramsberger ruled that the boys will not go home with their parents when they are released from the hospital. They are being evaluated for medical foster care and will live with relatives if they do not qualify. The Ledbetters will be allowed visitation after the boys are released. The next court hearing is in April.

As for her children's teeth, she said that dentists would only be able to treat them if the boys were under sedation because of their disabilities.

She spoke to reporters about her motherly responsibilities, always making sure the boys were clean and taking them to the doctor whenever they needed it.

"I don't leave my kids wet," she said. "I don't leave my kids dirty."

Asked when she might be able to see the boys again, Tammie began to cry. She said she doesn't know when she'll see them again and that she feels hurt.

Contact Alex Orlando at or (727) 869-6247.

After fire, state takes children from Spring Hill couple 03/17/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2014 9:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.