All of the adults at the house were asleep when Trent Sailers, nearly 2, with a blond mohawk, blue eyes and a love of the outdoors, slipped outside Wednesday afternoon and wandered to his death. He was found, wearing only a diaper, in the lake in front of his home.
"I feel like it's my fault," said Mike Bogue, 18, who lives at the house on Paragon Place with Trent's mother, Toni Wayman, 23, and three other adults and three other children, ages 2, 1 and 3 months. The group of friends moved into the 1,500-square-foot house about a month ago. Wayman works the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at 7-Eleven and, Bogue said, had been up all day Wednesday with her son, who finally went to sleep around 3 p.m. Wayman decided to take a nap, too. When first interviewed Thursday morning, Bogue said Wayman asked him to watch Trent in case he woke up. Later, Bogue said she never asked him. Regardless, there was a point Wednesday where Bogue decided to also take a nap.
He felt it was safe.
"All the doors were locked," said Bogue, as he sat at the edge of the lake Thursday near where Trent was found. Someone had placed a pale rose at the site. Bogue struggled to not cry.
He said he woke up at nearly 6 p.m. Wednesday hearing Wayman screaming: "Where is my baby? Where is my baby?"
Wayman could not be reached by the Times Thursday.
"She is lost," Bogue said. "She is not the same person. She doesn't know where she is now. She literally lost the only thing she had."
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said it is investigating Trent's death. No charges have been filed. Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Wayman had no history of being investigated for child neglect or similar charges. Bogue said their home was not a party house and that Wayman was "a great mom."
"She goes to work and comes home," Bogue said.
Trent's father, 23-year-old Terry Sailers, is serving a four-year sentence in Peoria, Ill., for residential burglary. His mother, Lucinda Hartman, 45, said Wayman and Trent lived with her in Port Richey until recently. Hartman said she begged Wayman to stay because she worried for the toddler's safety.
"Toni slept all the time," Hartman said. But she said Wayman adored her son.
"Toni loved him," Hartman said. "I know she loved him."
She said Trent was a sweet, happy boy who loved being outside; fishing, riding his little bike, going to the park. He especially loved water. Hartman said she removed her pool because she was scared of Trent drowning.
Wayman's neighbors said they've previously seen the children outside unsupervised.
The adults "are always sleeping and the babies are always outside running," said neighbor Caroline Nemeth, 65.
Victoria Carrasquillo, 40, said she found Trent on her doorstep last week. He was barefoot, his shoes kicked off in the yard. She had never seen him before.
"Who are you with?" Carrasquillo said, scooping up the boy. He didn't seem scared. Carrasquillo said she carried him around to her neighbors, asking if they knew who he belonged to. Then, she said, Bogue ran toward her, frantic, and said the boy had gotten away from him.
"What is wrong with you?" Carrasquillo said she shouted, pointing to Angel Lake, the pond across the street.
"There is water in front of the house," she yelled. "You have to be more careful."
"I'm sorry," she said the young man told her before he took Trent home. Carrasquillo considered calling the authorities, but then decided against it. Maybe it was just one mistake, she thought.
Then there was a pounding at her door Wednesday night. It was Bogue again, she said.
"Have you seen the baby? He's lost again," Bogue asked, according to Carrasquillo.
"Are you kidding me?" Carrasquillo shouted.
"No," she said Bogue told her. "He got away."
"I cannot believe this," she screamed. "Did you look in the lake?"
But Bogue said he did not lose Trent last week: "No, never."
A neighbor scouring the water on a paddle board Wednesday night found the little boy with his oar, in a muddy corner covered with algae.
"It's so devastating," Carrasquillo said Thursday.
The entire neighborhood seemed to be involved in the search, combing the streets, allowing deputies to search their homes. They saw his little body on the shore covered with a yellow blanket and saw his mother, Wayman, lying in the street screaming for her son. Most slept little that night and, on Thursday, were left shaken and wondering how this happened.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.