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Child found; mother calls hours later

For at least seven hours, nobody missed a bug-bitten toddler found wandering near a College Hill housing complex Sunday morning, wearing a T-shirt, shorts and white socks blackened with grit.

"It appeared he'd been out for a while," said Tom Jones, spokesman for the state Department of Children and Families.

About 5:30 p.m., after Tampa police had taken the 22-month-old to Tampa General Hospital and turned him over to a shelter home, Lonya Moreland told police that her son was missing.

The child, Jaukeva Fleming, was in state custody Sunday night as officials investigated the circumstances that led family members to overlook his disappearance Sunday.

"They'll find out what the story is," Jones said. "There's nothing automatic about releasing a child to his family."

Jaukeva was found to have a few minor health concerns, Jones said.

Moreland told officers that she left her son with her two brothers at her home, at 1810 Cano Court, early Sunday when she went to work. She said that one of the men left the child with the other man, who was asleep, said Tampa Sgt. Pat Hogue. Jaukeva slipped out, Moreland told officers, and each brother assumed the child was with the other.

"Apparently, the child left the residence unnoticed," Hogue said.

A witness called police after 10 a.m. and reported seeing a child at 26th Avenue and 17th Street, a block from Jaukeva's home, but police didn't know that at the time.

Responding officers took the boy to the police station where he played before being taken to the hospital.

Officers knocked on nearby doors, but no one recognized Jaukeva, Hogue said.

It is not uncommon for parents to lose track of their children for extended periods, Jones said:

"It happens all too frequently, unfortunately. Sometimes they say they were sleeping."