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. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.