Florida couple arrested after Polk Co. deputies find home in ‘deplorable’ conditions

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A Florida couple was arrested last week after two young children were found to be living in “deplorable” conditions, according to an affidavit from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Tawnya and Devin White were both arrested and charged with negligent child abuse after deputies investigated a report from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) of possible child neglect related to environmental hazards at a home in Alturas, according to a PCSO arrest affidavit obtained by local outlet Daily Ridge.

Tawnya, an employee of the DCF for 13 years, was confirmed to be still working for the agency at the time of her arrest but was terminated upon the results of the investigation, according to the affidavit. The DCF requested the help of law enforcement after it had been attempting to see the inside of the home since Jan. 21 following a report about its conditions.

The two children living at the residence with Tawnya and Devin were 7 months old and 7 years old. There were also five dogs on the property, and four of them were kept inside.

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Devin and Tawnya White mugshots

Devin and Tawnya White were taken into custody on Friday, Feb. 9, on charges of negligent child abuse after authorities found their home to be an environmental hazard. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

When deputies arrived at the scene, one observed “overgrown grass and junk/debris scattered about the property” outside the home, the affidavit reported.

“The interior of the home was deplorable – to include moldy furniture, stagnant water, junk debris, and piles of dog feces,” the document continued.

A deputy, who interviewed Tawnya in the front yard of their home, reported in the affidavit that she said her husband, Devin, was previously involved in a car wreck, limiting his mobility and his ability to help her keep up the home. She said she works a full-time job with the DCF and was trying to clean the home, but was struggling to do it alone.

Tawnya also told the deputy the 7-month-old baby does not leave the master bedroom unless he is carried outside.

During an interview inside the home with Devin, the deputy said he took the blame for the “conditions of the residence” since he is not able to help clean and doesn’t want to ask for help. He also said the two children don’t play inside the home and are “confined to the master bedroom,” the affidavit showed.

Outside of White's home

The affidavit said the exterior home had “overgrown grass and junk/debris scattered about the property.” (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Deputies also recorded that the infant appears to be “delayed in his development due to being confined in a bassinet all day” since the home is not safe for him to be in unconfined. The baby has also not started crawling.

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With Tawnya’s consent, photos were taken inside and outside the residence to document its conditions. The interior showed trash, knives and other items scattered all over the floor, numerous pieces of dog feces in various stages of decomposition and a strong smell of dog urine was noticeable throughout the home.

Several areas of the home also had exposed plywood flooring with visible stains from new and old animal urine and feces, according to the affidavit. The kitchen counters, the sink and the stove had items blocking those locations, and there were no areas observed for food consumption or preparation.

Inside of home

The inside of the home showed “a clear lack of proper food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, and supervision that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the children,” the affidavit said. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Polk County Fire Rescue also responded to the house, conducted an air quality test and found the Ammonia levels in the home to be 20 parts per million despite the front door having been open for an hour prior to the test being conducted.

The affidavit said both Tawnya and Devin have been “uncooperative with allowing anyone inside the residence,” which is what prompted police to access the inside of the residence via a court order obtained by DCF.

The couple also had 19 days to clean the house since they were first contacted by DCF, yet the condition of the residence remained “unhealthy and unsafe” for the children.

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“The conditions inside the house show a clear lack of proper food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, and supervision that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the children,” the affidavit said.

Both Tawnya and Devin were arrested and taken into custody “without incident.”