Child sets fire to mattress to escape ‘deplorable’ conditions

Daniel Andrew Davis, 37, and Kelley Lynne Davis, 36, of Spring Hill, Florida. [Image credit: Pasco County Sheriff's Office]

On the morning of October 5, Pasco Sheriffs Deputies and fire and rescue services responded to a call of arson in progress.  When they arrived to the Spring Hill residence of Daniel, 37, and Kelley Davis, 36, they found far more than they could have ever imagined.


The room in which the fire originated had two locks on the exterior of it, and a board had been placed across the door and screwed in place.  The room itself had no light, natural or otherwise, as the window had been boarded over, the light-bulbs removed from the ceiling fan, and electricity to the room had been shut off at the breaker panel.


During a press briefing, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco had a hard time discussing the "deplorable" conditions in which a child had been placed. "We don't treat the worst in our society the way this child was treated."


As an indication of what the child had endured, he indicated that deputies had discovered that when the mattress was first found burning Kelley's first call was not to emergency services bur rather, to her husband.


"There was feces and urine everywhere.  There was no games. There was no television.  Nothing.  There was a blanket and a mattress."  Later he elaborated saying "solitary confinement is much better treatment ... than what this child went through.  No only was there physical punishment that was going on there but the psychological that this child endured is absolutely horrendous."


There were five other children in the home, all girls, between the ages of infant and 10-years-old.  They were not subjected to the treatment that their 8-year-old brother endured due to alleged behavioral issues.  Sheriff Nocco stated that deputies believe the children, who have all been placed into protective custody with the Department of Children and Families, have Stockholm Syndrome.


Deputies had responded to several calls at that residence in the past, but they had no indication to what was going on behind closed doors.  Two calls placed had been hang-ups.  When deputies made contact, everything was reported as being okay and deputies saw no reason to discount the statements.  In August a neighbor had called to report the boy rummaging through a garage fridge unattended.


Officers once again made contact with the family and this time, were told that the child had alleged behavioral issues and possibly mental health issues.  Deputies are reviewing the calls to see if there was anything that the department had missed in their handling of the matters which could have given the child reprieve earlier.


Nocco explained that the reason the mattress was set on fire was that another sibling in the home had slid the child a pack of matches.  They are not sure as to whether the child set fire to the mattress intentionally knowing that emergency services would respond and help him, or if it was an accident.  They are still speaking with him.


What they do know is that "there was someone in that home that broke that Stockholm Syndrome we believe they have and realized they needed to do something.  And so God intervened in a way to help save that child."


After being read their Miranda rights, Daniel and Kelley are said to have admitted to locking the child in the room for 11-12 hours overnight and at additional times when they didn't like the way he was behaving.  He had been locked into the room consistently since March.


Daniel freely admitted to the detective investigating that the dogs that lived in the home had better conditions than the child.


They were both arrested and charged with one count of felony child abuse.  They bonded out of custody of the Pasco County Sheriff's Department on October 13 on a $10,000 bond.


Daniel and Kelley have both entered a plea of not guilty as well as an order to withdraw their public defender.  Their next court date is not known.


"It's beyond belief how evil people can be," Nocco stated.   "If there's anything anybody can do it's pray or these children."