NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – A New Port Richey woman is behind bars and charged with felony child neglect.
According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a call about a toddler walking by herself on Carmel Avenue near Seven Springs Boulevard Friday afternoon.
Once they arrived on the scene deputies spoke with neighbors who said the 3-year-old had been wandering in the street by herself for about 30 minutes.
A neighbor also told deputies it was the third day in a row she saw the child in the street alone. The neighbor said she had taken the toddler out of the street and returned the child to 24-year-old Whitney Shoemaker on two occasions.
While interviewing witnesses, deputies took custody of the toddler. Shoemaker was nowhere to be found, officials said.
Deputies then did a welfare check at Shoemaker’s house and found her sleeping in the bedroom. They woke her up and said she appeared disoriented and seemed to be under the influence of drugs, according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies described conditions inside the home as deplorable.
Neighbors said they warned Shoemaker multiple times to watch over the child. “You just can’t let your kid get out the front door in nothing but a diaper and you’re passed out on whatever in your house,” Joseph Riker said. “It only takes one time for something to go wrong over there.”
Shoemaker said she was aware the child got out of the house. She said the child used an unlocked door and that the toddler is very smart.
“She said it happened because the child is very smart and she is a very hard sleeper,” Lt. Christopher Joyal of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.
The Florida Department of Children and Families is investigating the case. Shoemaker is being held on $5,000 bond at the Land O’ Lakes jail.
This isn’t Shoemaker’s first run-in with the law. She was arrested a few months ago for drug possession and paraphernalia.
News Channel 8 reached out to her parents but has not heard back.