CLEARWATER — A judge ordered Nancy Broadhead not to have any contact with her 11-year-old daughter, who police say tried to burn down the family home while her mother was inside.
But the moment she is able to see the girl again, Broadhead said she knows exactly what she will say: "I love you. I love you with all my heart."
Speaking to the St. Petersburg Times for the first time since the Dec. 29 fire, Broadhead said she is taking her life one day at a time and isn't holding any grudges.
"Past is past; people change," said Broadhead, 48, who is living with a friend and awaiting surgery and skin grafts for her burned hands and arms.
She uses that axiom for more than just her view of her daughter and her alleged 15-year-old accomplice, Jack Ault, who were charged as juveniles with attempted murder and arson.
In the fire's aftermath, the media produced a flurry of stories about Broadhead and her family, exposing her struggles with alcohol and allegations of child abuse. Those things, too, she says, are behind her.
Her Clearwater home now charred, she said she may look for a new beginning outside Pinellas County, where she has lived most of her life.
But first, she said she would like to see her daughter end up safe — whether it's with her or not.
Her daughter, who the Times is not naming because of her age, is expected to be released from juvenile detention soon to live with Broadhead's sister, Linda, in Lakeland.
"I will do what is in her best interest," said Broadhead, adding there are still times when she finds it hard to believe her daughter could have played any role in the fire.
Broadhead said the night itself was a dark blur of confusion, its aftermath and cause still settling in her head.
"It's awful. I don't even know if I can come up with the right words. I really, really don't. It's called survival. You have to move forward," she said.
Broadhead, who has worked as a waitress for most of her life, has struggled to make ends meet. She lost what she did have in the fire, but said the help she has received from the public in the form of clothes, transportation and other necessities has been amazing.
"The outreach is, it just makes me cry. It's unbelievable," she said. "I never knew that people would reach out to you, call you. It's tremendous."
And her daughter, she said, "is a wonderful little person."
She said while they frequently fought, they did not always hate one another.
Broadhead said despite the picture of a troubled youth painted about her daughter, her problems only recently began when she started middle school last year. She had planned to send the girl to a new school and to see a counselor.
"All of a sudden, a few wrong people, a few wrong turns," she said.
She prefers to think about times before middle school, about a girl with a big heart.
Like when she'd see homeless people and ask her mom to set up tents in the back yard to help them.
Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 580-2951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.