Florida woman ‘at the end of her rope’ kept autistic girl locked in a cage, police say

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A Florida woman was arrested over the weekend after police found she was keeping a child in a homemade cage.

According to a heavily redacted police report from the The City of Palm Bay Police Department, cops initially responded to the suspect’s home early Saturday after a next door neighbor reported a young girl had climbed over a fence and into the back patio.

As per the arrest affidavit, officers discovered that the girl who lived next door was “nonverbal,” and attempted to make contact with the homeowner, Melissa Doss.

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After initially refusing police entry, Doss eventually came outside, telling police she had been sleeping and had no idea the girl, who is “severely autistic,” had escaped. The report redacted the child’s name, age and relationship to the suspect. The case was then referred to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Just a few hours later, around 11:30 p.m., Palm Bay police were again summoned again to Doss’ residence about reports of a runaway. A DCF investigator met police there, and the 43-year-old allowed all parties to enter, saying she was “at the end of her rope.”

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Upon entering through the back door, “the “immediate smell of feces and urine was strongly present. There was trash, bugs of all kinds, spiders, and flies, scattered throughout the house. No part of the floor was visible [and] there were no working bathrooms.”

Doss explained a bucket was used as a toilet and waste was tossed in the back yard. Investigators also noted part of the roof was collapsing and mold was seen throughout. In one of the rooms was a “homemade cage” of metal and wood, with a pillow and blanket.

Doss explained she kept the girl locked inside the cage at night so that she would not run away. There was no other bed in the “uninhabitable” home for the girl, the complaint notes.

Doss was arrested and charged with three counts of child neglect and one count of aggravated child abuse. She is being held on $22,500 bond, according to Brevard County court records.