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Police: Mother left toddler alone 3 days

In the months before she had her baby, Lisa Stepp was battling a crack cocaine addiction.

She got help and had a baby boy in November 1998.

But on Monday night, after police said she left 14-month-old Nicholas alone in a crib for at least part of three days, Stepp was arrested and charged with child neglect and fleeing and eluding police.

Nicholas, who suffered dehydration, was treated and released Monday night from All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He is in the custody of Stepp's mother, Camille Stepp, 69.

Police declined to release details of the case Tuesday, citing an ongoing investigation. A press release issued Tuesday said Stepp "left the child unsupervised and uncared for for approximately three days." Police think Stepp was on a crack cocaine binge while she was gone.

Sgt. Mike Darroch said detectives are talking with witnesses to determine whether 31-year-old Stepp had someone care for her child during part of the time she was gone.

"We're trying to figure out if the mother went back in the intervening time or if someone else went back," Darroch said. "What we're doing is trying to gather as much as we can from every source so we can determine how long the child was alone."

Stepp was in the Pinellas County Jail Tuesday night in lieu of $15,000 bail.

Darroch said Stepp is not necessarily a bad mother when she is clean.

"The question is," he said, "can she make decisions based on her condition?"

_ Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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