Father of boy found in pond arrested

1-year-old pulled from pond by church members Wednesday night

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 22-year-old father of a 1-year-old boy found naked in a Westside retention pond Wednesday night was arrested after police said he fell asleep after apparently smoking some marijuana.

Matthew Deen told police he didn't realize his son, Elijah (pictured below), wasn't in his crib until officers showed up at his door.

Police said they saw a bag of marijuana and a pipe with residue sitting in plain sight on the stove. Deen told police he "works 80 a week, more than the judge he is going to see."

The boy's mother, Ashlie Scott, said her husband was asleep on the couch at his home Wednesday night and Elijah was watching "Care Bears." She said Matthew Deen thought the door was closed all the way, but it wasn't.

Elijah Deen and his dog, Ville
Elijah Deen and his dog, Ville

"We had a blanket hanging up to try to insulate more, so I'm thinking the blanket got caught on the door and kept it to where it wasn't shut all the way," Scott said. "All it would've taken was one little push."

Scott said Elijah followed the family's dog, Ville, out the door and to a pond near a church on 103rd Street, and the boy and dog were playing in the pond together. Church members grabbed the child from the pond and brought him to safety before he got to the road, then called police.

Scott said she got home from work at Subway to find an officer at her door talking to her husband, and her husband kept apologizing and was arrested on charges of child neglect and marijuana possession.

"My first thought was that he was dead because he didn't say -- he just said he was found in a retention pond; he didn't finish that sentence," Scott said.

She said she's just thankful boy is OK.

"The thought that I could've lost him last night kept me up all night," Scott said. "Thinking he could've drowned, he could've been snatched up by somebody, he could've been run over, anything could've happened."

Scott said Deen feels like he let his whole family down.

"Hopefully they'll help him, parenting classes or whatever it is that he needs to do so he can be a better father," Scott said.

Elijah was released to his mother and the Department of Children and Families is investigating.

"This should be a wake-up call to all parents," DCF spokesman John Harrell said. "Get childproof locks, hook them high on the door so the children can't reach them."

Deen made his first appearance in court Thursday afternoon. Because he was already on probation, he is being held without bond.