ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – What began as an investigation into a reported break-in at a St. Petersburg home turned into a child neglect investigation, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Ashley Limardo, a spokeswoman for the police department, says four children broke into an apartment on 37th Street South on Saturday afternoon. The homeowner called police.
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“The neighbor was just like, ‘hey I have these four kids who entered my home, and they were hungry and they ate food’ and then officers arrived and were like, ‘where is your home,’” Limardo explained. “And they realized that they couldn’t get in.”
Officers discovered the children had been locked out of the apartment of the person responsible for them, just a few doors down from the apartment they broke into. The arrest report says they were locked out without food, water or a phone to call for help for “an unknown length of time.” They broke into the neighbor’s apartment to steal food, water and juice, the report adds.
Officers who responded to the scene then started knocking on the door to the apartment the children were locked out of.
“They were knocking, knocking, knocking and no one answered. Eventually, the person – a Mrs. Whitfield – did come out,” said Limardo. “What she did is yell at the children for knocking on the door.”
The woman, 31-year-old Dartavia Whitfield – who also goes by the name Dartavia Durant, is now facing four counts of child neglect. Police did not reveal her relationship to the children, but they say she was responsible for watching them.
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According to the arrest report, Whitfield arrived home around 3 p.m. Saturday after drinking with friends and fell asleep watching television. She admitted to detectives that she locks the door so the children don’t constantly run in and out of the apartment and said she “lets them in when they knock and ask for water or food.”
Elaine Seay lives across the street from Whitfield. She says it’s not unusual for the children to come knocking on her door.
“Kids used to come over here asking for water and stuff like that and I used to give them water and sandwiches and stuff like that,” said Seay. “It’s just sad that this happened and everything.”
Whitfiled works for the City of St. Petersburg as a secretary in the city’s real estate department. Deputies released her from the Pinellas County Jail early Sunday morning after she posted a $20,000 bond.