Local News

Records indicate that parents provided less care for children as time passed

AVON PARK - In the months before a 10-month-old boy died of malnourishment last year, records released this week by the State Attorney's Office indicate the parents ignored complaints about the treatment of the boy and his three sisters, failed to follow up on offers of assistance and visited doctors with the children on spotty a basis. When investigators talked with Sandra Jackson, the mother, about the boy's history of doctor's visits, Jackson "ultimately admitted that she was afraid to take Milo (Rupert) to see the doctor because he would see how 'bad,' Milo was," the report said. "Sandra said that she was trying to get Milo 'better' before she took him to see the doctor so her kids would not be taken from her." Neverthesless, Sandra Jackson signed away her rights to the children only 19 days after Milo's death, she told authorities. The interview took place earlier this year after Jackson, 25, and Kyle Lee Marsh Rupert, 22, were both charged with one count of child neglect with great harm and three counts of child neglect without great harm.
Not long afterwards, they were also charged with aggravated manslaughter. An opinion from the District 10 Medical Examiner said that Milo, who died in 2012, lost 27 percent of his body weight since Jan. 23, 2012, and that Milo "died as a result of nonorganic failure to thrive, due to underfeeding, due to neglect." Records state that Milo only received some apple sauce to eat during the three days before his death. No trial date has been set. Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin said depositions - statements from potential witnesses taken by attorneys - will be held this month. He said a trial date could be set in August, but there's no certainty of that. Records indicate that while people saw signs that Milo and his sisters, ages 2, 3, 4, at the time of the arrests, were malnourished and were suffering from health problems, besides living in a cockroach-infested dirty household, the most definitive action only occurred after Milo died. One of those who saw the conditions of children and those inside the house was Laura Pearson, a sister of Sandra Jackson, according to the records. Pearson told authorities that she would "cuss out," Sandra over how she was not taking care of the kids," the report said. Although Pearson told authorities she did not have a close relationship with her sister, she was over at her sister's apartment and saw conditions deteriorate. "Laura stated, that towards the end, she would not go further than the front door, because she could see how 'bad,' the inside was," the report said. "Laura said that dirty diapers, garbage and dirty dishes, were always inside the residence." Pearson told authorities Jackson blamed Rupert for not cleaning up the environment. Both Jackson and Rupert blamed each other for why the cockroach problem continued, the records said. She also told authorities that during the months leading up to Milo's death, the child was "very far behind," in his development and that Milo could not hold up his head. Although Pearson said that Jackson got food stamps for the children, Jackson's three girls appeared to be very skinny and that one of the girls looked like a "skeleton with skin on her," the report said. The girls always were dirty and had sores on them, Pearson told authorities, according to the report. "Laura also recalled that the girls never had shoes on them when they came to visit." One of the girls scratched sores on her head to the point that hair fell out, Pearson told authorities, according to the report. Jackson told authorities the children were thin, not because they were underfed, but because of their high metabolism, records say. During a time after the Florida Department of Children and Family Services visited the home of Jackson, Pearson told authorities, the children were placed temporarily in the custody of Sandra Jackson's mother and that she lived with her mother. Sandra Jackson and Rupert would live their at times, but they would play computer games rather than take care of the children, Pearson told authorities, according to the report. Amy Jackson, an aunt of Sandra Jackson, told investigators that she met the children three times and that during each visit they were always wanted to eat a lot and that they were skinny and dirty. Though DCF offered Sandra Jackson child care help, the reports indicate that she either declined the assistance or never followed up on it. During her interview with authorities when Sandra Jackson was asked about those offers, she "said she never followed up with DCF, because she got 'caught up with work.' Sandra said also said that if she had taken assistance from DCF, her would children would be 'better off,' today." jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834