Last Updated: 3:31 p.m.
Thursday afternoon, the Flagler County Sheriff’s abuse hotline got a call from a 14-year-old girl contemplating suicide. she said she was the victim of physical and emotional abuse by her mother, that she was the caregiver for herself and her four siblings while her parents worked, and that she was supposed to be homeschooled but wasn’t being taught anything.
Sheriff’s deputies and the Department of Children and Families responded to the property at 2403 Water Oak Road at the western edge of Daytona North (or the Mondex). What they found was immediately disturbing.
The front yard was a mess. The grass was “high enough to hide a child in some places,” a sheriff’s report states, with gas cans, beer cans, rust-covered items and other trash scattered throughout. “The front porch was covered in fecal matter by the two chickens that roamed the porch.” When a deputy knocked at the door, a young boy opened it then closed it before the girl who’d made the call to the hotline appeared. Two dogs slipped out of the house, followed by two boys, 9 and 6, both of whom were barefoot, with dirty hands and feet, wearing soiled clothes.
The girl told the deputy of her depression over her living conditions, of planning to run away several times and attempting suicide. She spoke of not feeling wanted in her house or on earth, that there was little food in the house, and that her parents would leave the house around midday, not returning until around midnight. (The father is a store manager in a gift shop. The mother got a job in September.) The girl reported being hit by her mother in the past. When opening up to her parents about the issues, she would get yelled at. She was worried about retaliation. (Her mother in mid-September posted a meme on her Facebook page, not the first, about having depression: “It’s a daily struggle. It’s not my identity. I will get better in time. I need people to be patient and understanding, not patronising and harsh.”)The sheriff commended the girl for taking the step to call the abuse hotline.
Her parents are Betty Nicolicchia-Allen, 42, and Dennis Allen, 44. By Friday night, both had been booked at the Flagler County jail on felony child neglect charges, and the children had been taken into the protection of the Department of Children and Families.
What authorities found inside the house was a lot worse than what they saw outside.
The children the girl was caring for were 6, 8, 9 and 12. All looked as unkempt as the two boys who’d run out a short time before. The house smelled of urine and animal waste. “When I entered I observed the children living in squalor,” the deputy reported. “The floor of the living room was covered in what appeared to be feces and urine from the three dogs running around. Some of the feces and urine has been dried and left for days and other was fresh. There was a rabbit living in a small fenced in area of the bare living room floor. On a dresser in the living room was a dirty plate of food which appeared to have been left for days next to a can of roach killing spray. The living room couch and walls were tarnished in filth. The kitchen counters were stacked with dirty dishes that were covered in the abundance of insects to include roaches and flying bugs. A mostly empty bag of bread was on the counter that had insects on or in the bag. The white floors and green counter tops were tarnished with mold and filth from an extended time of being neglected. In the middle of the kitchen was another hand pumped spray bottle as if it was used to assist with mitigating the insect infestation in the kitchen. On the open bottom shelf the kitchen counter were multiple bottles of bleach and unknown chemicals.”
The descriptions go: a fridge empty of edible food, a stove covered in days-old filth, soiled clothes on laundry machines that were themselves “tarnished with filth.” There was no running water. A hose snaked through the only bathroom’s window and into the shower. The children reported having bathed three days to a week before, and even then, only by traveling to Bull Creek Fish Camp to do so. The toilet was clogged with accumulated waste. “Tooth brushes were kept between two Styrofoam plates on the bathroom sink in what appeared to be a lackluster effort to keep them from the filth of the house,” the deputy wrote. The parents’ bedroom floor was invisible under piles of trash and other items. “This was the only bed in the house with sheets that were very soiled.”Two other bedrooms looked the same, though the beds had no sheets. “The tremendous filth in the house along with the abundance of animal feces caused my boots to stick to the floor and caused me to constantly watch the placement of each step as to not soil my boots,” the deputy, Seth Green, reported.
“This is a traumatic situation for all of the children involved,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Halloween is a day where kids should be out having fun, not contemplating ending their life. I want to commend the girl for calling the Abuse Hotline and being brave enough to ask for help. These children were living in deplorable conditions. I am thankful that these kids are now safe from these two individuals who obviously do not know how to properly care for children.”
A DCF investigator took custody of the children. The oldest was taken to Halifax hospital for observation because of her suicidal thoughts. The parents Saturday morning remained at the county jail, each on $5,000 bond. They have lived at the 1,200-square-foot house on Water Oak Road since 2006. It had been deeded to them by Habitat for Humanity.
The animals in the house were not claimed or adopted, but left in the house. The arrest reports note three dogs and a rabbit. When Keith Neal, Flagler County’s animal control officer, looked in the window today, he noted four dogs and a guinea pig. The door was locked. He could not go in or claim the animals. He posted a legal notice giving the owners 24 hours before animal control would have the authority to go in and take the animals.
That notice and 24-hour wait would not have been necessary had deputies followed normal protocol at the time of the arrest, he said. “If we get the call at that time when deputies are making the arrest, there is no 24-hour wait,” Neal said. But animal control was never notified. Today he had no choice but to wait. “I looked in the window, the animals look fine,” he said.
He could not explain why animal control had not been called, and questions to that effect to a sheriff’s spokesperson had not yet been answered when the story was updated Saturday afternoon.
Anyone interested in donating clothing or other goods to the family may drop off the donations at the Department for Children and Families office at 105 South Bacher Street, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at Community Partnership for Children in the VyStar Credit Union commerce center on Palm Coast Parkway.