When Tasha Trotter gave birth to a 3-pound baby girl in a Dollar General parking lot in 2010, paramedics noted that her behavior went beyond what was expected of a surprise delivery.
"The mother suffers from schizoaffective disorder," a complaint filed with the Florida Abuse Registry reads. "She is throwing food … there are concerns for the child's well-being."
Joseph Artis IV, then 18 months old, was in day care when his sister was born. He would continue to see his mother, even after she gave up custody.
When Joseph was 4, during one of those visits in St. Petersburg on March 28, Trotter, 40, stabbed him to death, police said.
Recently released reports from the Florida Department of Children and Families illustrate a spiral of mental illness that culminated in the boy's death.
Family members said Trotter struggled with mental illness and met the boy's father, Joseph Artis III, at a Boley Center for mental health treatment.
When a child protection worker with the Pinellas Sheriff's Office checked on the family shortly after Joseph's birth, in May 2009, both parents were cooperative and had help from family members, the worker noted.
Later that summer, Trotter called police when she and the boy's father fought over a cigarette. Artis, who has an extensive criminal history, was arrested.
When a caseworker visited her to check on the boy's well-being, they noted the tender way the mother interacted with her son.
"CPI saw baby Joseph, almost 3 months old, waking from nap in his crib. Tasha picked him up, kissed and cuddled him. Baby responded to cuddle with a smile."
But by 2010, something had gone wrong.
On April 2 of that year, hospital workers found Joseph, who was just under a year old, alone at the front of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Cameras captured Trotter leaving him there, the reports show.
He was wearing a yellow shirt and clean diaper and drinking a bottle of formula.
He was taken to his grandmother, Carolyn Trotter, a nurse who lives in St. Petersburg and was already the guardian of Trotter's two older children. When they found her, Tasha Trotter told caseworkers she took the baby to the hospital to keep him away from his father.
After the birth of her daughter in October 2010, "the mother made statements that she has college and high school students following her around conducting a study," the report states.
The infant was placed in foster care and eventually went to live with her paternal aunt in Naples. Trotter signed over parental rights for her son to her mother on a temporary basis that year. In 2011, the grandmother was given permanent custody.
Trotter agreed to supervised visits with Joseph.
"Overall risk level at closure is low," the final report reads.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.