Local News

Father pleads guilty in child neglect case

SEBRING - The father whose 10-month-old son died of malnutrition in a filthy, cockroach-infested apartment in Avon Park has pleaded guilty to neglect charges of Milo and his three sisters and is expected to be sentenced July 30 to 24 1/2 years in prison. Kyle Lee Marsh Rupert, 22, and mother Sandra Michelle Jackson, 25, were both charged with aggravated manslaughter, one count of child neglect with great harm and three counts of child neglect without great harm. Authorities had found Milo dead in July 2012 and his three sisters neglected and malnourished. A pretrial conference is set for Jackson on Aug. 22.
If Kyle Rupert had gone to trial, the maximum sentence he could have received if convicted was 45 years in prison, said Assistant State Attorney Michael Castillo. Castillo said he felt Rupert needed to get a strong enough sentence to punish him for allowing his son to die from starvation "and I think that (24 1/2 years) accomplished that." Although 45 years is the maximum sentence, Castillo said, it was unlikely Rupert would have received that much time, with the maximum penalty being set to run consecutively on each charge. Rupert pleaded guilty last week in front of Circuit Judge William Sites. Castillo said he asked for a delay in sentencing, which is now scheduled for July 30 at 1 p.m. One reason for that is to give Milo's family members or possibly others the chance to testify before the sentencing occurs, Castillo said. Another is to provide time to research whether the charges of aggravated manslaughter and child neglect with great harm essentially are double charging for the same crime, Castillo said. If he determines that to be the case, the child neglect charge will be dropped, he said. Castillo said in examining the case against Rupert, there were some factors supporting the sentence being reduced from the maximum. One was that Rupert suffered neglect as a child, Castillo said. Another, Castillo said, was that Rupert is mentally challenged, which can be determined after examining some tapes of him playing video games. Rupert didn't seem to fully grasp the situation at hand in the apartment, Castillo added. He lived in the same apartment as the children, Castillo explained, and had no qualms inviting his friends over to play video games, despite the stench, garbage and cockroaches. "He was living in the same mess and sleeping in the same mess" as the children, the assistant state attorney said. Castillo also noted that Rupert is the father of only two of the children, while Jackson is the mother of all four of them. Records showed that Rupert and Jackson blamed each other for the condition of the apartment. They also indicated the children were pretty much left in the bedrooms unattended and that the neglect increased during the final six months before Milo died. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834