BROOKSVILLE — A couple were heading home after picking up their 16-year-old daughter from the Department of Juvenile Justice lockup in Ocala on Saturday afternoon when they had to add some passengers.
But crowding four more children into the 1991 Mercury Marquis proved too much, until the parents and the girl struck upon a plan: Stick the teen in the trunk.
It seemed like a good idea, despite the summer heat beating on the trunk lid, until a minor accident brought the situation to the attention of deputies.
After witnesses told deputies they saw the girl climbing out of the trunk, the mother and father, both of Spring Hill, were charged with felony child abuse. The couple is not being identified because the girl is a juvenile.
According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the parents were returning from the state facility in Ocala with their daughter. She had been involved in a Friday night fracas in Spring Hill and was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery, accused of knocking down a disabled 39-year-old woman.
The couple then stopped at a friend's home in the Brooksville area to pick up their two other daughters and two more children, who were friends of the family.
The father said there wasn't enough room to fit everyone in the car, according to the report, so the teenage daughter volunteered to ride in the trunk.
Both parents agreed to let her do it.
During the ride home about 1 p.m., the vehicle was involved in a collision with a van on Mariner Boulevard, and the father pulled over into the parking lot of a nearby Circle K convenience store, the report said.
When deputies arrived, three witnesses told them several children got out of the Marquis, including two who exited the trunk. The witnesses specifically identified the teen, who was standing in front of the store and has distinctive hair.
Deputies said the teen and her parents initially denied that anyone had been in the trunk, according to the report. The girl also "began to act extremely belligerent while displaying a very negative attitude towards law enforcement."
The mother then admitted to deputies that the girl had been in the trunk but was adamant that no other children had been in there. Deputies were never able to confirm that another child was in the trunk.
During a search of the vehicle, deputies found the girl was wearing a T-shirt that had dirt and a tire mark from the spare tire in trunk.
An unidentified male in the car was taken to Oak Hill Hospital after complaining of shoulder injuries and the teenage girl was allowed to accompany him to the hospital. Another family friend came to pick up the other children.
The parents were then arrested on charges of child abuse and taken to the Hernando County Jail. The mother and father were both released Sunday after posting $1,000 bail.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.