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Deputies: Unsafe conditions lead to child neglect arrest

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A 34-year-old Putnam County mother has been charged with felony child neglect after her 12-year-old daughter was found walking along State Road 100 east of Florahome Thursday night, carrying luggage.

The girl, who was found along the busy state road just before 7 p.m., told deputies she was trying to run away to Palatka because her mother, Laurie Ann Erickson, had left her home alone for hours after they had a fight.

"There’s not a lot of houses along the highway there, and, of course, it was dark, and it was at night, and he was worried about her being hit, so he stopped to check on her," Putnam County Capt. Dick Schauland said.

The girl told Deputy Darren Riley that she had gotten into a fight with her mother about being on the computer.

Riley returned the girl to her home, which was about 3 miles from where she was found, and discovered the mobile home had collapsing floors, doors that could not be closed and locked, and trash, dirty clothes, cigarette butts, empty beer cans and broken glass strewn throughout it.

Riley also found unsecured prescription and over-the-counter drugs sitting out in the open and accessible to children.

The only usable bedroom in the home was shared by Erickson, the 12-year-old girl, and Erickson’s two younger children.

“When the 12-year-old showed the bedroom, there was only one livable bedroom in the mobile home and when the little girl showed Deputy Riley the bedroom, she pointed out her mother and brother slept in the bed, her sister slept on the sofa, and she slept on an air mattress in the closet," Schauland said.

The girl told Riley that she thought her mom was in town and out with her male roommate “taking care of business” but couldn’t explain what that meant.

Riley spoke with Erickson several times throughout the evening, and each time she told him that she was in Ocala for a doctor's appointment and was about an hour and a half away from home. She told him that her daughter also tried to run away a year ago.

“She said that she left the 12-year-old home, because she just felt she was old enough to be home by herself," Schauland said.

Riley called the Department of Children and Families, and officials allowed the 12-year-old to be turned over to a friend of Erickson, who was already watching the two younger children in Interlachen.

Erickson arrived home about 10:35 p.m. and was arrested after an interview with Riley.

She is being held in the Putnam County Jail without benefit of bond. 

DCF is investigating the case, and county code enforcement has been notified because of the poor living conditions.