COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A mother and her boyfriend are at the center of a child neglect investigation that began when a school leader contacted law enforcement about a student who said he was abused, according to a Columbia County Sheriff's Office arrest report.
Henry Kulka, 44, and Ashley Coberly, 33, both of Columbia County, are each charged with child neglect.
According to the arrest report obtained by News4Jax, on Monday, the principal at Pathways Academy contacted the Sheriff's Office about a student who was allegedly abused.
An investigator spoke with both the child and the principal in the nurse's offices where the child complained about hurting in areas of his body where he said he was hit with a belt by his mother's boyfriend, later identified as Kulka, according to the Sheriff's Office.
A deputy noted in the report that the boy had a visible swollen mark on his chest and that the back of the boy's arm was also swollen. According to the deputy, the mark was consistent with a belt.
The boy told the deputy that he was hit by Kulka on Sunday after the two got into an argument, the report shows.
The report states the school nurse contacted the Department of Children and Families hotline to file a complaint.
The deputy and DCF went to Kulka's home, where, according to the report, Kulka stated he did hit the boy with a belt and showed them the belt he had on. Kulka told the deputy he hit the boy because the child slapped him in the face, according to the report. He also told the deputy he knew what he did was wrong, the report shows. After their conversation, Kulka was arrested.
While still at Kulka's residence, DCF asked to see the inside, where, according to the report, the residence was "horrible."
The deputy noted in the report there was no place in the home to prepare food and there was standing water and animal feces throughout the house. The report also stated the house smelled like urine and had bugs.
According to the report, a camper behind the house where the boy was living was "just as horrible." The deputy wrote in the report that the floor was about to fall in, there was no working bathroom and there was no air.
According to the arrest report, the boy's mother, Coberly, gave no excuse for the child's living conditions and told investigators that the boy was not allowed to be in the house during the day after school and that she and Kulka locked the doors. The deputy noted in the report that Coberly knew about the incident in which her boyfriend was accused of hitting her child with a belt.
Coberly was then arrested, as investigators said she failed to protect her child and allowed him to live in those conditions.
Columbia County jail records show both suspects have bonded out of jail.
It's unclear if the boy is now staying with relatives or is in state protective custody.