Parents in Flagler County charged with neglect after call to abuse hotline

14-year-old said she was considering suicide

By Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor, Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

BUNNELL, Fla. - The Flagler County Sheriff's Office says Dennis and Betty Allen were arrested Halloween night and charged with five counts of child neglect.

Authorities say a 14-year-old girl called the abuse hotline and said she was considering suicide due to her living conditions and emotional abuse. The girl said she was being home-schooled but wasn't being taught; and that she was being used as a caregiver for her younger siblings ages 6, 8, 9, and 12, along with three dogs, a rabbit and two chickens while the parents worked until the late hours of the night.

Deputies responded to the home on Water Oak Road and said the home was in disarray. The Sheriff's Office said the front yard had grass tall enough to hide a small child and was littered with gas cans, beer cans, rust covered materials and other trash. The front porch was covered with chicken fecal matter.

Once deputies met with the 14-year-old, they toured the inside where there was fecal matter and animal urine throughout the house, and rotting food in the refrigerator. Deputies reported some rooms were so littered with trash that they were not able to see the floor and their boots stuck.

"What we discovered on the inside of this trailer ... no one should have to live that way," Sheriff Rick Staley said. "To drive a child, at age 14 to (consider) suicide is just tragic."

In addition,  it's reported the home didn't have running water. A hose was being run through the window and into the shower and the toilet appeared to have been used for days with no way to flush.

“This is a traumatic situation for all the children involved. Halloween is a day when kids should be out having fun, not contemplating ending their lives. I want to commend the girl for calling the Abuse Hotline and being brave enough to ask for help. These children were living in deplorable conditions. I am thankful that these kids are now safe from these two individuals who obviously do not know how to properly care for children,” Staley said. 

The children told deputies they hadn't bathed between three days to a week and when they did, they had to go to Bull Creek Fish Camp since there was no running water.

The Department of Children and Families responded and took custody of the children.

Jail records show that Dennis and Betsy Allen have been bonded out. 

Staley said he's concerned the kids might be split up.

"I think it's a great possibility that these kids are going to be put to four winds and be traumatized all over again," Staley said. 

Staley said there has been an outpouring of support for the kids, with several kids offering clothing and food. 

The girl who called authorities is getting treatment, Staley said. 

 
 

 

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