SPRING HILL — When Pasco County sheriff’s deputies and fire rescue crews answered an arson call just south of the Hernando County line Monday afternoon, they found more than a burning mattress.
The door to the room where the fire started had two exterior locks, deputies said. A board had been screwed over it. The only window was covered, the ceiling fan was broken and electricity to the room had been cut off. They found feces on the wall and urine on the floor.
A young child had been locked in the room, deputies said, and set the mattress on fire in an attempt to escape.
Two adults in the house — Kelley Lynne Davis, 36, and Daniel Andrew Davis, 37 — face a charge of aggravated child abuse, according to arrest reports. The Davises admitted that since March, they have kept the child locked in the room for 11 or 12 hours every night plus whenever the child misbehaved.
The victim’s relationship to the Davises was not released, nor were the age and gender, because of the child victim privacy laws, Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies had visited the home a number of times before Monday, Sheriff Chris Nocco said during a Tuesday news conference.
In February and July, calls were made to 911 from the house but the caller always hung up, Nocco said. Then on Aug. 26, a neighbor contacted the Sheriff’s Office because the child had been spotted rummaging through a refrigerator unsupervised in the garage of the home.
Deputies didn’t note anything suspicious in their visits, even in conversations with the child, Nocco said. The Davises told deputies the child had behavioral issues.
The Sheriff’s Office is reviewing the visits but it is unlikely deputies could have known about the abuse, Nocco said.
“There’s nothing that has risen up to the level to say we could have known what was going on inside that house,” he said.
The child’s room was bare except for a mattress and blanket, deputies said. It had no natural or artificial light.
Deputies were told the child received a pack of matches from another child in the house and started the fire. Investigators are checking whether the child started the fire to get the attention of authorities.
“We don’t know that at this time, we’re still talking,” Nocco said. “But at the same time, there was somebody in that home that cared. There was somebody that broke that Stockholm Syndrome ... and recognized they needed to do something.”
The Davises have five daughters, none of whom were treated like the victim was, deputies said. The other children in the house range in age from an infant to 10. The state Department of Children and Families has intervened to help the daughters, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said.
A call to a phone number listed for the Davises was not answered. No defense attorney is named in court records.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly why information about the victim was withheld.