Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Panhandling St. Petersburg mother accused of letting toddler wander into traffic

ST. PETERSBURG — Earlier this week, an 18-year-old mother stood along a busy road and held up a sign.

"Laid off cant find a job anything helps, god bless please help, happy holidays," it read.

Bridgette Patricia Baldyga of St. Petersburg had 75 cents and 11/2 pills of Xanax in her pocket. She also had her 22-month-old daughter with her.

And sometime while Baldyga was panhandling, police say, the toddler wandered into traffic. A passing motorist called authorities, telling police he had seen the child collecting money.

Baldyga was arrested about 3:45 p.m. Thursday in the 7700 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N. She is facing charges of child abuse and possession of a controlled substance.

"She said she needed money to provide for her daughter and normally she's a good mother, and she understands that her daughter should not be out in traffic," police spokesman Mike Puetz said.

Baldyga's mother is caring for the 22-month-old girl.

"She's not a bad person," Cara Baldyga said in a brief interview Friday night. "She's in a bad place."

It is unclear how long Baldyga spent on the side of the road before someone called police.

But she had been gone long enough for her boyfriend to go looking for her, according to a police report. Kyle Stephens, 25, told St. Petersburg police Officer James Knight he was trying to find his girlfriend, too. He was in the area pushing an empty stroller.

The person who called police, Chris Webb, also was on the scene. Webb, a child protective investigator with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, was in the area on another, unrelated case when he happened to drive by and see the young woman and the toddler.

"He saw the child over 15 feet away from Mom holding a Styrofoam cup and getting money from cars," Knight said in his report.

But Bridgette Baldyga denied her daughter was panhandling and wandering in traffic, Puetz said.

She said it was possible that her daughter toddled a few feet. She admitted the little girl was holding a purple sippy cup and was with her when she got money from a few motorists.

"She said that she did not get too much, only a few dollars, and that they spent it at Burger King," the officer wrote.

Bridgette Baldyga also told Knight that the prescription pill found in her pocket wasn't hers and must be her boyfriend's.

She admitted to struggling with addiction in the past, and was currently on methadone treatment.

"She said she never does cocaine or hard drugs," Puetz said.

The young woman did, however, say that she was pregnant. Cara Baldyga said her daughter later found out in jail that she is not pregnant.

The teen's mother acknowledged her daughter was wrong for panhandling, and for having her child with her. Cara Baldyga said her daughter isn't always mature. She said she has warned her about who she hangs out with, and wants her to get help.

Knight wrote in his report that Bridgette Baldyga mentioned wanting to get off drugs. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, she does not have a criminal record.

Reach Kameel Stanley at Reach Danny Valentine at

Panhandling St. Petersburg mother accused of letting toddler wander into traffic 12/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned


    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. []
  2. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami


    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  3. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  4. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race


    A new poll shows a tight race between former mayor Rick Baker and Mayor Rick Kriseman, currently engaged in the most expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg history. 

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.
  5. Review: Mark Bowden's 'Hue 1968' a gripping, and timely, history


    More than 40 years after it ended, America's war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history.

     On Feb. 15, 1968, U.S. Marines carry out an assault on Dong Ba Tower in Hue, South Vietnam. In the battle for the tower, six men died and 50 were wounded.