Sarasota County toddlers found amid dirty diapers, blood riddled floor and rotting food

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla - A search for a sex offender led Sarasota County Sheriff's deputies to two toddlers living in squalor.

Their mother, Donnalee Ballard, 22, is now facing child neglect charges.

Deputies say they went to a home in the 9000 block of South Tamiami Trail looking for a wanted sex offender.  When they knocked on the door, they say Ballard answered and told them James Denegall indeed lived with her and deputies could wait inside the home for him to return.

In the home, deputies say they found horrifying conditions.

Two toddlers, ages one and two, were found walking barefoot amid garbage, food, blood, debris, dirty clothes, dirty dishes and rotting food, an arrest report states.

Deputies added that kitchen floor was covered in food, syrup, a pizza box and plastic bags.

The floor appeared to not have been cleaned in some time and dirt was sticking to the floor, deputies noted.

According to the affidavit, the kitchen sink was overflowing with dirty dishes and rotten food.  One of the counters reportedly had dirty dishes stacked up and moldy food.

Deputies say when they opened the fridge they found spoiled, smelly food.

Used feminine hygiene products were also found on the floor but Ballard allegedly denied those were hers.

In the living room, deputies say conditions were even worse.

The living room was reportedly soiled with garbage and the carpet had dirty diapers and food smashed into it.

According to deputies, there were also needle caps on the floor that were accessible to the children and used cigarettes.

Concerned for the children, deputies asked to see their bedrooms. 

An arrest report states deputies were led to a back room of the trailer where Ballard showed them a "dirty" twin bed and a pack and play.  Both apparently had dirty sheets, there were empty beer cans on the floor and deputies say they found a lighter in one of the children's beds.

Ballard reportedly showed deputies a bathroom that she stated she "recently cleaned."  Deputies described the bathroom as having dirt on the walls, toilet, sink and bathtub, as well as a dirty mattress lying on the floor.

Numerous holes were also observed on the walls.

Ballard told authorities Denegall punched holes in the wall, an arrest report states.

Ballard also reportedly told deputies "the mess just happened."

Deputies also confronted Ballard about living with Denegall, a registered sex offender.  She reportedly told deputies she believed the charges against him were made up and that he is innocent; that is why she allows him around her children.

Ballard apparently told deputies she is unemployed and asks other people for food and money.

An arrest report states that Ballard also admitted to using illegal drugs and confessed to injecting 30 mg of Oxycontin into her arm that very day.

Ballard reportedly told deputies she used drugs in the bathroom while her children we in the living room.

She told authorities her 16-year-old sister was watching the toddlers at the time.

Deputies requested that Sarasota EMS respond to evaluate the children.   One of the children had a high fever.

Ballard said the child had a 101 degree  fever the day before and admitted she did not have medication and did not seek medical treatment.

DCF took custody of the children and Ballard was arrested.

She is being held without bond.

Denegall was also arrested for violating his probation.


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