Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon man charged with child neglect after 2-year-old found with head stuck in fence

TARPON SPRINGS — A 2-year-old girl was found with her head stuck in a hole in a wooden privacy fence.

The fence was between the apartment complex where the girl lives, and the day care center next door. A day care employee saw the trapped child Tuesday and flagged down a police officer for help.

At the apartment complex off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, police eventually found the toddler's father looking groggy and disheveled in a filthy, fly-ridden apartment, authorities said.

He told officers that his daughter must have left the apartment through an open sliding door, then tried to wiggle through the fence. He said the girl always wanted to play with the small kids at the nearby day care center when they went out for recess.

The father — Philip Joseph Benoit, 22, of Tarpon Springs — was arrested Tuesday on felony child neglect charges. He remained in the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Benoit, who has a lengthy criminal record, also was charged with violating his probation on a previous drug conviction.

After paramedics checked out the toddler, police said, she was placed in the custody of her mother, who had been at work during the incident.

The toddler's head had gotten stuck in the fence between two wooden slats, said Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Ed Miller, one of the officers at the scene.

"One of the slats was missing. She had her head in there and couldn't get out," Miller said. "She was actually really calm."

It happened about 11 a.m. Tuesday where a day care center on Huey Avenue backs up to an apartment complex on St. Michael's Way.

Officers had to pry one of the boards loose to free the girl. They picked her up and took her door-to-door in the apartment complex, looking for her family.

Benoit answered his door "with a disheveled and groggy appearance," according to an arrest affidavit. "The defendant did not seem shocked the child exited the home," the report added.

Police said the toddler was dirty, with messy hair and multiple bites and sores on her legs. In the apartment, dirty dishes were piled in the sink, swarming with flies. Counters were covered with clutter and filth. Dirty diapers, ashes and cigarette butts littered the floor, and trash was strewn throughout the home.

"Furthermore," police Officer Anthony DiGiorgio wrote in the affidavit, "I walked into another swarm of flies in the child's bedroom and did not observe a blanket for the child's bed."

Police picked up the girl's mother at work. Miller said the parents began cleaning up the apartment while police were there. A social worker and child protection investigator will follow up on the situation in the home, Miller said.

This was Benoit's seventh arrest since 2008, according to Pinellas County court records. He has previously been arrested on charges of child abuse; drug trafficking; possessing marijuana, Xanax and oxycodone; assault; felon in possession of a firearm; throwing a deadly missile at a building; violating his probation; and failing to appear in court. Benoit's 2008 child abuse arrest occurred before his 2-year-old daughter was born.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at

Tarpon man charged with child neglect after 2-year-old found with head stuck in fence 02/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]