Venice 5 y/o found amid pipe bombs, grenades

Posted at 11:03 AM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 13:59:57-05

A Venice child was found amid drugs, rifles, pipe bombs and grenades during a welfare check Friday, Sarasota County deputies say.

The 5-year-old was removed from the home by DCF.

Steven Pace, 23, and Katie Smith, 24, both of 425 N. Jackson Road in Venice, were arrested and are facing charges.  Smith is charged with child neglect.  Pace is charged with child neglect and four counts of possession of a destructive device.

According to deputies, they went to the home off Jackson Road to assist DCF with a welfare check.

Once inside, deputies say they saw eight rifles, five handguns, several boxes of ammunition, nearly 300 grams of suspected synthetic cannabinoid, two pipe bombs and two hand grenades.

The firearms, drugs, bombs and grenades were all within reach of the child, deputies noted.

Deputies say the home was also covered in dirt and trash and described the conditions as deplorable.

Pace is being held on $180,000 bond.

Neighbors told ABC Action News the arrest is a relief.

"That little girl does not deserve this," said Michele, a neighbor who asked to only be identified by her first name. "She needs a life.  She deserves to have a life.  This is not a life for nobody."

According to neighbors, they knew Pace had firearms in the house but were not aware of pipe bombs and grenades.

They say they would often take the 5-year-old girl in and watch her for days or even weeks.

"She actually would stay at my house, almost for a week and finally they would ask,  'She can come home if she wants,'" said Bianca, a neighbor who also asked to only be identified by her first name.

Neighbors say Smith is the little girl's mom but Pace is not the child's biological father.

"They don't care about her.  If they were willing to do this and put their child in jeopardy over drugs or whatever they were selling, then they don't need a kid or a dog or even a ferret or a piece of sand," Michele said.