CLEARWATER — The rough seams of custody hearings, police calls, arrests, drugs and violence thread through Nancy Broadhead's life like a curse, starting when she was just a year older than her own daughter was when police say the girl tried to burn her alive on Tuesday.
In her own words, from a deposition in a 1989 custody hearing over her son, Brent, Broadhead said she started trying to leave home when she was 12. She ran away, but was brought back home to her mother. She started smoking pot. She had been arrested, she said, more than once by the time she was 15.
Her 11-year-old daughter, who is not being named by the St. Petersburg Times because of her age, created an online persona on MySpace.com that seems entangled with many of the same themes of substance abuse and domestic discord that have dogged Broadhead throughout her life.
The girl and 15-year-old Jack Ault, whom she described as her boyfriend, face charges of arson and attempted murder.
On her page, the girl posted pictures depicting herself as "high," closeups of her bare midriff and a marijuana leaf image.
Her site was laden with profanity — as was Broadhead's household when she was younger.
A revealing case
Nancy Broadhead, 48, gave birth to son Brent in 1985. The father, a man named Marvin G. Geizentanner, would wage a years-long custody battle with Broadhead that raged throughout most of the boy's childhood.
"Have you ever heard Brent call his father (expletives)?" an attorney asked during a custody deposition when the boy was 4.
"Sure. People sit around the house all the time calling each other (expletives)," Broadhead said.
Later, Broadhead said her son was afraid of his father. In a petition for a protective order on behalf of her son, in July 2000, she said her son had run away from home "fearing for his life."
Broadhead wrote to the court that her son had been "physically and mentally abused … repeatedly" by his father.
Broadhead did receive a temporary injunction, but a month later a judge refused to issue a permanent injunction because of insufficient evidence.
According to court records from the late 1980s, Geizentanner worried about how Broadhead was raising their son.
Barbara Broadhead, Nancy's mother, said in a 1989 deposition that it was common for her daughter to drive with her baby while intoxicated.
Those events would be a prelude to one of her later arrests. She was pulled over the night of July 4, 2002, according to Clearwater police records, accused of driving drunk with her then-4-year-old daughter in the car.
Barbara thought Nancy had a drinking problem. Geizentanner would sometimes call her to help remove his son.
"He wanted the baby out of there because Nancy was in no condition to take care of him," she said. "It's more or less traipsing around and dragging him with her, whether it's day or evening or whatever, and I don't think a child that age should be handled that way."
She thought about seeking full custody. In 1990, she would take over raising the boy for a time.
A history of drinking
In November 1988, Nancy Broadhead spent a month in a detox clinic. She attended more than 20 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings along with Geizentanner, whom she lived with before he kicked her out for breaking a window after she returned drunk from a Huey Lewis concert.
After detox, Nancy lived with her mother for a short time, but her drinking soon resumed, Barbara Broadhead said. Nancy would stay out until 3 a.m. sometimes, and other times not return home at all.
"I could just look at her eyes and know," she said in court records. She asked her daughter to leave, and she did.
Nancy Broadhead moved in with a mechanic she had recently met. He told her his name was Frank Lucky. He was 38 or 39 — she couldn't remember.
They didn't have a relationship. But they did hook up.
"Once," Nancy said, shortly after she moved in with him after he started fixing her car.
He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1989, the Klan held a rally in Arcadia. She drove there with Lucky and a friend. Brent was in the car.
They didn't spend much time together, though. Broadhead didn't even know what Lucky's position with the Klan was.
"It's grand — its almost like poobah," she said of his title.
Money woes have dogged the Broadhead home.
For most of her life, Broadhead worked as a waitress, at restaurants like Oysters, Etc., and Pappas' Restaurant. She earned less than $300 a week, mostly in tips. She worked nights sometimes, and said in a deposition that she used mail-order amphetamines to make it through long shifts.
According to records, her house in Clearwater entered foreclosure on Dec. 22.
Police cruisers outside the house have been a familiar sight.
Within the past year, Clearwater police responded to seven calls, not including the fire Tuesday, at the Broadhead home at 1580 Huntington Lane.
On Thursday, police released reports generated by three of those calls. Though heavily redacted because of the girl's age, they refer to a runaway juvenile who refuses to come home, holes punched in the wall and marijuana in plain view.
Only under rare family circumstances does a child attempt to kill a parent, experts say.
Kathleen Heide, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, said there are only about 100 cases of children slaying their parents each year.
"When you have a girl accused of killing or attempting to kill a parent, it's very, very rare," said Heide, who has researched and written books about juvenile homicides.
The families are usually fractured. The killer usually involves a child who is severely abused, antisocial or mentally ill.
"Clearly, there's no question that this girl needs help," Heide said.
Times staff writer David DeCamp contributed to this report.