TEMPLE TERRACE — On his way home Tuesday night, David Cooper found a little girl barefoot and drenched as she stood in the rain.
Cooper had just arrived at his Temple Terrace apartment building near Doral Oaks Court when he spotted the girl peeking around a garbage container.
"Can I help you?" he asked her. She didn't respond. He asked once more, and the girl said she was homeless and her parents might be dead inside their burned home.
Alarmed, Cooper called 911. Moments later, the girl's parents, William and Suzanne Frederick, were arrested on child abuse charges.
Temple Terrace police say they have discovered what they believe is possible child abuse at the Fredericks' apartment.
According to arrest reports, the couple forced their 10-year-old daughter to run about 30 laps every day without anything to drink. They made her stand on one foot while holding a 5-pound weight for about an hour. She was forced to do 50 push-ups. She slept on the floor. Her 6-month-old brother slept in a playpen inside a closet with no air-conditioning vent in the master bedroom.
On Tuesday, the couple left the girl at their corner apartment, No. 1120 on the second floor, to take care of her baby brother while they went shopping, police said. When they returned about 5 p.m., the Fredericks asked if she had fed her brother. She hadn't, and they told her she would be punished, police said.
In distress, the girl lit a plastic foam cooler on fire in the kitchen and left the apartment, Temple Terrace Police spokesman Michael Dunn said.
About three hours later, Cooper discovered her. Meanwhile, the girl's parents were searching for her in the complex and asked Cooper if he had seen a little girl. He handed her over to the couple. But something felt odd, Cooper said. William, 33, and Suzanne, 31, grabbed the girl hard by both arms and marched her back to their apartment, he said.
When police arrived, Cooper took them to the Fredericks' apartment. "I didn't like the way they had her," he said.
Police interviewed the girl's parents and their roommate, Richard Quesenberry.
Because of the number of allegations against the parents, officers arrested them. Quesenberry also was arrested and faces a charge of providing false information for telling officers he was the one taking care of the baby while the Fredericks were out.
Police are now investigating the case, Dunn said, and are trying to determine the nature of the girl's alleged punishments and how long the alleged incidents occurred.
"The totality of it just seemed to rise to the level of abuse," Dunn said.
Neighbors said they sometimes saw the girl run laps behind the building. She ran so often her feet formed tracks in the grass.
The girl and her brother were under the custody of the Department of Children and Families on Wednesday, Dunn said.
The Fredericks were booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where they remained Wednesday without bail. Both face child abuse and child neglect charges. William Frederick faces an additional charge of failing to report a dangerous fire.
On Wednesday afternoon, a large pink dragon neighbors said the girl sketched using chalk remained on the concrete in front of the Fredericks' apartment door.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.