SPRING HILL — A passer-by did a double take when she saw the little boy wandering around alone outside a home Thursday afternoon clad in a diaper and playing with live electrical wires.
The woman called the authorities, and deputies found the front door of the house in the 4300 block of Lamson Avenue unlocked and open. No adult was watching the 3-year-old as he played with wires at the air-conditioning unit.
Deputies found the mother, Melissa Ann Crossman, 19, sleeping under a pile of blankets in a bedroom in the home. A 1-year-old girl was asleep in a crib next to her, according to a Hernando County Sheriff's Office report.
After being awakened, Crossman told deputies, "Ah, he got out of the front door again," the report said.
Crossman told deputies she put down her son for a nap in another bedroom, put her daughter to sleep in the crib, and then took a pain reliever for a headache and fell asleep.
A caseworker summoned from the state Department of Children and Families searched the house with a deputy and found that the girl's crib had only a mattress covered with food stains and crumbs, with no sheets; "poisonous chemicals and cleaners" were easily accessible to the children; and liquids were spilled all over the bathroom floor, among other things.
The boy's bed was a mattress on the floor, and deputies found food-caked dishes throughout the kitchen and trash on the floor. None of the smoke alarms in the house was functioning, with only exposed bare wires visible.
Asked to show the authorities how he got out of the home, the boy easily unlocked the dead bolt and opened the door. The child's grandmother, Diane Lashley, who also lives at the house, told deputies that the child-safety latches had been broken for some time.
Deputies also noted that bruises and scrapes were found on the boy's body but authorities were unable to determine whether they were a result of abuse.
Crossman was arrested on a charge of child neglect and taken to the Hernando County Jail, where she remained Friday in lieu of $1,000 bail.
The children were removed from the home and taken to DCF's Brooksville office.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6120.