CLEARWATER — The strange tale of the 11-year-old Clearwater girl who set her mother on fire ended earlier this month, when she pleaded guilty and was ordered into residential mental health treatment.
But documents released Wednesday show the beginning of the story, painting a picture of what life was like for the skinny blond-haired girl who would eventually ignite her mother's bed.
Ten times in 11 years, workers from the foster care system investigated reports that claimed the girl was a victim of abuse or neglect. She was taken out of her home and placed with relatives twice, although she returned.
The records say her mother, Nancy Broadhead, "drank a glass of wine the night before giving birth," and had an alcohol problem. In 2000 the girl's day care workers noticed Broadhead would "stumble and smell of alcohol."
In a 2005 case, state officials said Broadhead "hit her with an open hand, a closed hand and kicked her." In 2007, "the child stated that her mother drank every day and that her mother hit her on the butt with a belt. Court-ordered supervision was reopened as the mother was continuing to drink and drive with the child," the records state.
But in spite of the similarity of the allegations, workers concluded that in some cases there was not enough evidence to pursue court action. One was considered unfounded in part because it arose from a custody dispute.
The fire case began Dec. 29, when Broadhead woke up to flames in her home. Clearwater police said her daughter and a 15-year-old described as her boyfriend, Jack Ault, poured gasoline around Broadhead's bed and set it afire. Broadhead escaped from the home, but suffered burns that required surgery.
Ault pleaded guilty in juvenile court and was sentenced to a residential juvenile program. The girl, now 12, was sentenced to juvenile probation, and was required to receive residential mental treatment. She was placed under the custody of her aunt in Lakeland.
Roger Futerman, who represented the girl in juvenile court, said Wednesday that "the mother should have been arrested on numerous occasions, and she's not fit to raise the child, let alone ever see the child again."
Broadhead's attorney, Kevin Piccarreto, said Broadhead loves her daughter very much, and "she wants to work on a relationship with her daughter through intense family counseling."
The girl's father was described in the records as someone Broadhead had a "casual relationship" with and that she said "she caught him smoking crack and ended the relationship immediately."
Times staff writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at email@example.com or (727)893-8232.