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Girls, 1 and 3, left alone, deputies say

A 21-year-old woman has been arrested and accused of leaving her two young girls home alone for several hours while she went on a drinking spree that ended when she passed out at another house.

Kathryn A. Craft was arrested Tuesday on charges of felony child neglect, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities say Craft left her two children, ages 1 and 3, unattended at her Inverness home for several hours early Dec. 30.

The children were removed from Craft's care by the Department of Children and Families, according to the report.

Deputies were called to the home at 5:45 a.m. Dec. 30 by a man who said he was supposed to meet Craft at her house at 4:30 a.m. The man told deputies that, when he arrived, the two children were alone, according to the report.

Craft had been out drinking and passed out at a house about 3 miles from her home, she told deputies. She told deputies she went out drinking about 11:30 p.m. Dec. 29 and left the children with a babysitter, according to the report.

Craft told deputies she returned home about 3:30 a.m. and found the children and babysitter asleep. She told deputies she left the house again and planned to return after 30 minutes, but she passed out at another house.

She would not have been home before 8 a.m. if deputies hadn't roused her, according to the report.

When deputies tried to contact the babysitter to verify Craft's story, they had no luck.

Craft gave them a number to reach the babysitter, but an elderly man who answered the phone told deputies he had no idea who the babysitter was.

Deputies also went to the address Craft gave them for the babysitter, but no one there had heard of her either, according to the report. They also called the alleged babysitter's best friend in Texas, but the woman who answered the phone had never heard of the babysitter, according to the report.

Finally, deputies checked with Citrus High School and Florida State University, the schools that Craft told them the babysitter attended. Neither school had a record of the babysitter, deputies said.

Craft was arrested and taken to the county jail, where she remained Tuesday afternoon. Bail was set at $5,000.

Craft is the latest Citrus County mother arrested after being accused of leaving her children without proper supervision.

In March 2004, a grand jury indicted Carol Lee Squires on a manslaughter charge, saying she was culpably negligent in the death of her youngest son, Johnathan.

The boy, not quite 2, died in a fire that destroyed his family's Crystal River apartment in September 2003.

Squires wasn't home at the time of the fire. She had gone to a convenience store to grab a cup of coffee.

Two other adults were in the home when the fire began, but they didn't know Johnathan was in a bedroom in the apartment. His body was found in a closet.

Squires, 24, has pleaded not guilty and her felony case remains pending.

In December, the State Attorney's Office charged Renee Lynn Daigle with manslaughter and child neglect in the Aug. 26 drowning of her son, 22-month-old Jason Schaefer Jr.

A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Daigle told investigators she fell asleep, leaving her toddler son watching television in the living room of her mother's house on Toy Street in Inverness.

Daigle awoke and found her son's body floating in the pool, partly submerged, near the steps at the shallow end.

Prosecutors said her actions contributed to her son's death.

Daigle, 22, has not yet had a court hearing.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or