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Hospital Releases Home-Alone Toddler

After two weeks on her own, the girl displays a healthy appetite.

October 02, 2003|From Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A 2-year-old girl left home alone for 2 1/2 weeks while her mother was in jail has been released from a hospital after being treated for malnutrition and dehydration, officials said Wednesday.

The child, who survived by eating ketchup, mustard and dried pasta, was released from Wolfson Children's Hospital to the custody of the state Department of Children & Families. The agency granted temporary custody to her father, Ogden Lee.

"My daughter is doing fine and she's in good health," Lee said Wednesday evening outside the south Jacksonville home where he and his daughter are staying with friends. "Thank God this was the outcome."

The little girl had been left alone since her mother, Dakeysha Telita Lee, was jailed Sept. 10 on charges of aggravated assault and petty theft, police said. The mother was charged Monday with child abuse and was being held on $170,000 bond.

Lee, a Navy petty officer second class who is separated from the 22-year-old mother, said he had been trying to contact her for two weeks and did not learn until Sunday night that she was in jail.

When a manager let him into the apartment Monday, the youngster was lying nude in a baby's bathtub, covered with a towel and watching a TV cartoon channel. She was filthy and covered with dried ketchup and jelly, Sheriff John Rutherford said Tuesday.

"When I found my daughter. I yelled her name out and she responded, 'Daddy,' " Lee said, his voice breaking with emotion.

Once in the hospital, the girl ate four pieces of chicken, a cheeseburger, mashed potatoes, Cheerios and drank two pints of milk, Lee said.

Patricia Mallon, a Department of Children & Families manager, said the agency will continue to investigate and make a recommendation for permanent custody.

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