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Toddler Was Left Alone for 19 Days After Mom's Arrest

The 2-year-old lived on condiments and dried pasta. 'I don't know how she did it,' her dad says.

October 01, 2003|From Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A 2-year-old girl survived on ketchup, mustard and dried pasta for nearly three weeks after she was left home alone while her mother was being held in jail, authorities said Tuesday.

The child was recovering from malnutrition and was listed in good condition Tuesday at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

"She's sitting up in the bed and laughing and playing with the nurses," said hospital spokesman David Foreman.

The child's father, Ogden Lee, who is separated from the child's 22-year-old mother, Dakeysha Telita Lee, said he had been trying to contact the mother for two weeks and did not learn until Sunday that she was in jail.

When a manager let him into the apartment Monday, the girl was lying in a baby's bathtub, covered with a towel and watching cartoons. She was filthy and covered with dry ketchup, he said.

"She grabbed me and wouldn't let go of me," Ogden Lee said. "It is really a miracle how good of shape my daughter is in. I don't know how she did it."

Lee, 33, said the girl had dragged the food, toys and other things into her mother's bedroom, where he found her in the tub.

The child had opened the refrigerator and got into a pantry, eating anything she could find, including dry spaghetti and macaroni, Sheriff John Rutherford said.

"She managed to stay alive for 19 days," he said. "She's quite a scrapper."

Leaford James, who lives across a breezeway from Dakeysha Lee's apartment, said he had heard crying from the apartment "but nothing to get suspicious about."

The girl had been left alone since her mother was jailed Sept. 10 on charges of aggravated assault and petty theft. The mother was charged Monday with child abuse, and was being held on $20,000 bond.

Dakeysha Lee was represented by the public defender's office on the original charges, but it had not been assigned the child-abuse case. Her appointed attorney was not immediately available for comment.

The Florida Department of Children & Families was reviewing the case to determine where the child should be placed.

"The child is safe in our care," said Patricia Mallon, a district manager for the agency. "Our every effort is to ensure her safety and well-being."

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