PLANT CITY — When a deputy arrived, the mentally disabled man had ant bites on his hands and feet.
He said they were punishment. Two group home caregivers had made him stand barefoot in fire ant hills Sunday and made him put his hands in the ant beds, too, he told the deputy.
Jeffery Alan Clark, 21, said the caregivers had accused him of taking checks and money from another worker. Clark was afraid they would hit him, he said, so he stayed, even as he felt the stings.
The deputy found witnesses who backed up Clark's allegations. One resident said the workers had made him stand in an anthill, too, until he claimed he was allergic to the bites.
Caregiver Quentin Shunell Amos, 21, was charged Tuesday with abuse of an elderly or disabled adult. He was released from jail on $2,000 bail Wednesday.
The second worker has not been charged. Deputies say the case is still under investigation.
Amos declined to comment when contacted by the St. Petersburg Times.
"It's been a tough day," he said.
It was his first arrest as an adult in Florida, though as a teen he was once charged with bringing a weapon to school.
Clark, the ant-bitten resident, couldn't be reached. No one answered the door at the group home in the 6000 block of Ike Smith Road Wednesday afternoon.
In 2008, Clark, then 17 and living in a St. Petersburg group home, was charged with filing a false police report. Police said he fabricated a story about a 15-year-old sexually assaulting another resident. Clark was accused of convincing another boy to back up his story.
Clark recanted and admitted he was trying to get the 15-year-old thrown out of the home, records show.
"He said he never witnessed any sex," Detective Pam Marland wrote in her report. "He apologized several times for lying."
The charge against him was eventually dropped.
The Hillsborough group home on Ike Smith Road is run by Florida MENTOR, which offers group homes for adults with disabilities, among other programs.
Executive director Jon Fisher released a statement Wednesday saying the company is cooperating with authorities.
Florida MENTOR suspended Amos pending the outcome of the deputies' investigation, Fisher wrote.
News researcher John Martin and staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.