Florida police have arrested and charged a woman after she allegedly locked a girl with severe autism in a cage inside her Palm Bay home, according to law enforcement.
Authorities arrested Melissa Doss, 43, on Sunday and charged her with three counts of child neglect and one count of aggravated child abuse on $22,500 bond, county records show.
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Police initially responded to an early Saturday call saying a young girl, who appeared “non-verbal with a disability,” climbed over a neighbor’s privacy fence into their yard, an arrest affidavit says.
“…She managed to climb over the fence and walk into [the neighbor’s] screened patio,” the report reads. “He immediately called the police to report this incident.”
Doss, who the young girl lived with, refused to allow police to enter her home, at which point police referred the case to the Florida Department of Children and Families before they were called again to Doss’ residence at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday after the child ran away from home, as Fox 7 Orlando first reported.
A child protective investigator met police at Doss’ residence, and the woman eventually allowed authorities to enter the home, where they discovered a “homemade cage” of metal and wood and large enough to fit a twin bed. Doss locked the child inside the cage at night “to keep her inside the house,” according to the arrest report.
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The home was “in such disarray, it is uninhabitable,” the affidavit says.
Inside, the “immediate smell of feces and urine was strongly present. There was trash, bugs of all kinds, spiders, and flies, scattered throughout the house.”
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“No part of the floor was visible throughout the residence. Several large sections of the roof were cut out and collapsing throughout the home. Mold was seen through the entire house. The residence did not have working bathrooms,” the report reads.
The condition of Doss’ residence could lead to serious mental or physical harm or even death, police said.
Doss’ relation to the girl is unclear.