Ten years ago, when he was 28, William Ziegler faced a felony child neglect charge involving his 2-year-old son and an injunction violation charge. He was going through a divorce. His wife had secured the injunction against domestic violence. Both charges were dropped.
By 2015, the couple was living apart. They have three children in common. Ziegler would take care of them when their mother was at work. One of the children came home with a laceration on the mouth. The child told his mother that his father had slapped him, and told a cop that his father had gotten angry when his son had not finished doing the laundry. The mother told a Bunnell Police Department officer that “this is not the first time that her children came home with injuries.”
The officer filed the wrong charge: simple battery. It was dropped.
On Saturday, Ziegler, now 37, was booked at the Flagler County jail on two felony counts of child abuse. When Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the family’s property on Butternut Avenue, the three children–16, 14 and 11 years old– were hiding from their father, in the woods.
The oldest of the children told a deputy that the evening of April 1 Ziegler wanted him to wash the top of the camper the family resides in on the property. The 16 year old is afraid of heights and the roof was soapy and slippery. Ziegler got angry and “began to hit him with an open hand on the chest,” according to his arrest report, making matters worse as the boy could not keep his balance. He repeatedly asked his father to stop. Ziegler then “grabbed him by the neck with both his hands, picked him up in the air, swept his feet out from under him, and then threw him down on the roof of this camper.” The camper’s roof is about 15 feet from the ground, the deputy reported.
The boy, who said his ability to breathe had been impeded when his father grabbed him by the neck (he’d told his father he couldn’t breathe), landed on his back, tried to get up, but Ziegler wouldn’t let him. (Ziegler weighs 230 pounds, according to his jail booking.) The two other boys were witnessing it all.
The deputy–Jennifer Prevatt, an 18-year veteran on the force–noticed that the 11-year-old boy’s t-shirt was ripped at the collar. She asked him why. The boy told the deputy his father had wanted him to tell a joke, something his father liked about “big fat girls with beards,” which the 11 year old didn’t want to say. As he kept refusing for several minutes, “his father then grabbed him by the shirt and threw him to the ground,” ripping the shirt, according to the arrest report. His father also “grabbed and twisted his toe” (the other two boys witnessed the incident) before Ziegler began throwing things in the camper, punching the walls, and breaking a stool against the door.
“The children appeared to be scared of their father while I was speaking to them,” Prevatt reported, and told her he has anger issues.
Prevatt and fellow-deputy Sgt. Daniel Parthemore had been speaking with the children away from the camper. Ziegler was still in the camper, though he came out once deputies contacted him by phone. Other deputies secured the camper. Prevatt noticed the shattered stool, and a shotgun and an AR-15-type assault weapon next to the bed. She noticed fresh scrapes on his knuckles, which he said came from punching walls in the camper. He told deputies he’d been under a lot of stress, and that he disciplined his sons because they weren’t listening. His oldest, he told deputies, “was scared of heights and hyperventilating while on the roof of the camper and he grabbed his shirt and sat him down,” according to the report. He would not explain how he sat his son down. It also wasn’t made clear why, knowing his son was scared of heights, he had him on the roof.
He said the youngest boy’s shirt was already ripped before he pulled on it, and that he did so because he blamed the boys not doing the dishes. He pulled on the youngest’s shirt when he told him to get to work.
The children were turned over to their mother. Ziegler was booked at the jail. He posted bail on $5,000 bond today. He was ordered to surrender all firearms and have no contact with the two children victims as well as the third child.
Abuse Hotline: Report Abuse Online
The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day and 7 days a week of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Please use the links below to report a child or adult abuse.
If you suspect or know of a child or vulnerable adult in immediate danger, call 911.
TTY: 711 or
Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare is a mandatory reporter. § 39.201(1)(a), Florida Statutes.
To report an allegation in Spanish or Creole, please call 1-800-962-2873, for TTY use 711 or 1-800-955-8771. This toll free number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with counselors waiting to assist you.
Michael Hair says
So if I read this right, our court system is at fault here. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.
Raising children is a tough job, I’ve been there. I was good Dad but not perfect. I’m surprised I’m saying this because he appear to be white I feel for him and especially the children. God bless our children, and protect them.
Some individuals don’t deserve to ever be a parent, this low life is one of them.
Me Too says
Agreed. So sad. How will they grow up? They will definitely have problems.
Pissed off in PC says
230-pound bully, prior felony child neglect charge … parenting is the hardest thing in the world and pretty much all parents have “lost it” at times, but when your children feel the need to hide in the woods to be safe, that indicates a much worse scenario than a one-time discipline situation! Disgusting POS should be locked up and the kids should be re-homed in a safe environment. (Why aren’t they with the mother if this is how he treats them?)
Sadly, the two oldest are probably already lost and will become DV perpetrators themselves in a few years because “that’s the way pappy treated us.”
I absolutely believe in discipline, especially with a particularly defiant child, but not to the extent that this sperm donor took it. Give him back his AK and deport him to Ukraine to save children instead of smacking them around. Sickening.
Why do they keep turning the children over to the mother when she apparently just turns them over to the father whenever she feels like it? By doing that, the mother is guilty of Child Endangerment.
Whose they? Clearly the court system here is no help… Ever heard of a court ordered custody plan? Clearly the court has repeatedly turn a blind eye to this loser… The only thing the mother is guilty of is doing what the courts have told her to do.