Bunnell, FL - The parents of five children are charged with Child Neglect without Great Bodily Harm due to living conditions in the home. Flagler County Sheriff's deputies arrested 31-year-old Tiffany Berry and 34-year-old Nicholas Carter after conducting a welfare check at the home located at 72 Espanola Road last Friday (February 28).
Flagler County Schools had asked for the welfare check because there were reports of sewage backing up into the home. Berry told deputies that she and Carter have lived inside the home with their five children ranging in ages from 3 months to 12 years of age.
Deputies stepped into the home and reported immediately smelling a putrid odor resembling human waste. Berry explained the smell came from the septic tank which had collapsed in 2017 or 2018. She also said the sewage was not hooked up to the tank and discharged waste directly onto the ground outside the bathroom.
The ceiling was wet and rotting in most of the house. In the kitchen, the floor had given way to bare ground and walls were missing in some areas. The floor in the bathroom was decayed and covered with mold and the tub had gone through the floor. All of the bedrooms inside the home were full of a moldy odor and covered in general filth. While inside the home, deputies observed multiple live and dead cockroaches scattered along the floor as well as crawling along the TV and furniture in the room.
Berry told deputies that she and Carter were aware that the living conditions were not good for the children's health. She said she has asked for assistance and no one would help her and that the Department of Children & Families just told her to move. She also said that she informed the property owners but the lease had expired and the landlord refused to make repairs. Berry said that she and Carter have plans to make repairs to the home when they get their tax refund.
The oldest child, a 12-year-old girl, has an untreated mental health condition and was often left home unattended and instructed by Berry and Carter to look after her four siblings while the parents went to work and to hide if anyone knocked on the door.
Per school records, the living conditions have been an ongoing problem since May of 2016 when the oldest child came to school covered in bug bites and smelling of urine. Since that time, Berry and Carter have been contacted by multiple organizations that have offered assistance that they have either turned down or never followed up on.
“I am so happy that we were able to get these kids out of this house before someone was injured or became seriously ill as a result of the deplorable conditions inside the home,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Between the mold, the unstable foundation, and the fact that these kids were being left unsupervised, this situation could have had a tragic ending. These two ‘parents’ have been given every opportunity to make improvements to not just their
kids’ lives but their own lives that they have completely ignored. Hopefully, DCF and other agencies will help these parents and children get the help they need. It is unfortunate these conditions and the parent’s lack of actions deteriorated to a criminal case. Just because you may be poor you must still take care of your children. Sadly, I noticed the large flat-screen TV in the room. Parenting is about making the right choices for your family.”
FCSO contacted DCF who arrived and took custody of all five children.
Berry and Carter were taken to the Flagler County Jail. They both bonded out the next day.