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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Tavares woman found living in squalor with malnourished Husky

Melody Ann Sargent
Melody Ann Sargent

A Tavares woman was charged with child neglect and animal cruelty after being discovered living in a cockroach- and maggot-infested home with animal feces and urine all over the place.

A Tavares police officer responded Saturday to a home on Hunterwood Lane and met with a state Division of Children and Families case worker, who provided an intake report alleging a poor living environment including animal feces and urine throughout the living area and cockroach infestation. While approaching the residence, the officer could smell the strong odor of rotten meat and cat urine. The officer was unable to see inside the residence because the windows were covered with dark curtains, according to the police report.

The home’s occupant was identified as 45-year-old Melody Anne Sargent, who arrived home shortly after the officer arrived. Sargent immediately became hysterical and said she was trying to fix the issue. She said she was in the process of moving from the residence because of a cockroach infestation she can’t control. Sargent told the case worker she found a temporary house for a juvenile resident to stay in while she moved items from the home into a storage unit, the report said.

Before the officer and case worker entered the residence, Sargent warned them she had a 1-year-old Husky that had diarrhea and was going to the bathroom throughout the home. She said she also had three cats that used a litterbox, but one of them was urinating and defecating throughout the living area. Sargent also said there was rotten meat inside an unplugged freezer in the garage that had been there for about a month, according to the report.

The officer and case worker entered the home and observed it was in disarray with cockroaches crawling on the floor and walls. The smell of rotten meat and cat urine was so strong the officer had to leave the house several times. Multiple piles of feces were dried up on the floor and had cockroaches crawling on them. The kitchen appeared unusable as items stacked on the counter with cockroaches crawling on and in them, the report said.

The officer found the Husky locked in a cage in the back room. The dog appeared to be underweight and was surrounded by dried urine and feces. The dog had no direct access to any food or water, as everything was covered with cockroaches or urine. Animal control was contacted to take possession of the animals, according to the report.

After the officer and case worker interviewed everyone in the home, Sargent admitted she had lied about removing the juvenile from the home and the family has been living in poor conditions the entire time. She said she knew the hazardous and dangerous living conditions weren’t suitable for a juvenile, adult, or animal to live in. She said she was unsure how to ask for help, the report said.

DCF removed the juvenile from the home and placed her under a safety plan, while Sargent was arrested and taken to the Lake County Jail. She was released the next day on $3,000 bond and will appear in Lake County Court on Feb. 6.

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