Sheriff: Women Drugged, Starved Boy

Domestic partners in Florida face aggravated child abuse charges.

February 19, 2009, 5:23 AM

Nov. 21, 2007— -- Domestic partners Suzette Stevenson, 45, and Jamie Lynn Martin, 26, have been charged with aggravated child abuse after a 7-year-old boy illegally in their care escaped from the two women after they allegedly drugged him and left him in a car as they shopped for a Florida timeshare.

The boy, who is not a biological child to either woman, was allegedly tied by his wrists and made to stand in an upright position for hours at a time, forced to drink shampoo, was burned with cigarettes and had to urinate and defecate in a closet, according the Baker County Sheriff's Office documents.

The boy was born in 2000 in California. After his mother became involved in drugs, he was taken away from the mother and given to his father, Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson told ABC News. The father, who allegedly did not want to care for the child, gave him to an aunt, who was in a relationship with Stevenson.

Dobson said that Stevenson then purchased an illegal birth certificate for the boy after his aunt, her domestic partner, died. "It's not legally sound at all in any way shape or form," he said. Stevenson then came to Baker County, Fla., in September 2005 to meet Martin, whom she had developed a relationship with over the Internet, Dobson said.

The boy got into trouble at a Baker County day care center last year after he tried to steal food from his peers. The day care operators notified Stevenson, who pulled the boy from the day care and did not send him back to school this fall, Dobson said.

Baker County authorities, however, were not formally brought into the case until recently, when the two women allegedly brought the boy about two hours away to Osceola County, Fla., near Orlando, with the promise of taking him to Disney World "if he was a good boy," Dobson said.

Instead, the two women allegedly threatened him with a box cutter and left him in a car, drugged with some type of adult sleeping pill, as they tried to collect $100 in a real estate promotion awarded to anyone who visited a timeshare open house. "These two individuals couldn't afford a hotel room, nevertheless a $350,000 time share," Dobson said.

The boy then wandered into the open house, Dobson said, and Osceola County deputies, as well as social services, were called when the boy complained about being hungry.

According to interviews with the boy, as well as with the two women, investigators were able to collect enough evidence to arrest the women, who remain jailed in separate Florida facilities after they were arrested last week. Stevenson's bond has been set at $150,000 and Martin's is $75,000. Both are being represented by public defenders.

In interviews with investigators, each woman blamed the other for leading the abuse, according the sheriff's office documents. Stevenson said that Martin didn't like the boy because he was mixed race. Martin countered in her interview that Stevenson would keep the boy out of school because she feared his teachers would notice injuries he sustained due to their abuse.

The child remains hospitalized in an Orange County, Fla., hospital. At one point, he was listed in critical condition, but Dobson said that he is expected to recover and will remain in the custody of the state's social services.

"In my 35 years on the job, I don't know if I've ever seen a child that's been abused in so many ways he has," Dobson said.

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