LARGO, Fla. — A Largo couple are accused of beating their son if he didn't clean their filthy cockroach infested home in the middle of the night and pad-locked food away from the boy, according to Largo police.
- Melanie Brown, Larry Brown charged with felony child abuse, child neglect
- 14-year-old boy was malnourished, had marks on back and legs
- Bond for suspects set at $15,000
Melanie Brown, 36, and Larry Brown, 44, were arrested earlier this week on felony child abuse and child neglect charges. Largo police said they were notified about the alleged abuse when a concerned citizen spotted the 14-year-old malnourished victim lying next to a shopping plaza at 1 a.m. on Monday.
The boy told officers that he left home because he was scared to get hit by his parents again, according to an arrest affidavit. The victim also said that he was hit several times for not cleaning the bathroom properly. Police said the victim had several marks and bruises on his back and legs that was consistent with his story.
Police said at the boy's trailer, they found a thousand cockroaches and feces from four dogs throughout the home. Officers also noticed that the refrigerator and freezer were pad locked. Melanie Brown told police she uses the locks to prevent the child from eating all of their food, according to the arrest report.
Larry Brown told officers that the pad locks had been on the fridge for more than a year. Largo police said doctors at All Children's Hospital found the boy was malnourished and in the 10th percentile for this age based off his weight.
"I just thought he was skinny," said neighbor Dominique Barton, 33. "I thought he was a skinny young boy."
When officers asked to see where they keep the food for the boy, Larry Brown opened a cabinet as multiple bugs came out where that food was stored.
"I just think that's crazy. I knew they were strict, I just didn't know that they were like that," Barton said. "That's just nuts. I have a young girl. So, I just can't imagine anything like that."
Police said the dad admitted to hitting the boy with a leather belt and his mom would use a plastic back scratcher. According to the report, Melanie said she'd wake up her son on school nights between 1-3 a.m. to clean the bathroom. The child fell asleep on the toilet and Melanie made him run in place for 15 minutes as punishment, according to Largo police.
Only Spectrum Bay News 9 was in court on Tuesday when the parents made their first appearance. All of the allegations left Judge Philip Federico nearly speechless.
"I mean these allegations, I don't know if you read them. I read them before I came here," he said. "These are a little concerning. I'll just leave it at that."
Judge Federico set the parents bond at $15,000 each and ordered no contact with the victim or each other if they get out of the Pinellas Jail.