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Despite lawsuit, Florida Lottery sees record sales; tops $100M for 2nd week

For a second consecutive week, the Florida Lottery broke its own record, with total sales of more than $141 million, the game’s chief announced Tuesday.

This record for the Sunshine State’s 29-year-old lottery comes despite a nasty lawsuit that pitted Florida Gov. Rick Scott against the state’s headstrong House Speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran.

For the second successive week, the Florida Lottery’s contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) exceeded $19 million from scratch-off sales alone.

Total scratch-off sales for the week reached $103.23 million, with overall sales hitting $141.28 million.

Additionally, this marks the second consecutive week in Florida Lottery history that scratch-off sales exceeded $100 million in a single week.

“The consistent scratch-off sales demonstrated by the Florida Lottery over the past two weeks are integral to our mission to generate as much revenue as possible towards public education,” said Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “The lottery remains committed to providing Florida’s students with the opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Over the past 29 years, the Florida Lottery has established itself as a dependable funding source for public education.

For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education throughout the state while remaining one of the most efficient lotteries in the nation. Additionally, the Lottery has contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program to send over 750,000 students to college.

Florida Lottery contributions are approximately 6 percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida Lottery reinvests 98 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Florida retailers and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700-million contract for new equipment, agreeing with Corcoran that the agency went on an unauthorized spending bonanza when it made the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Scott said in a statement March 7. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision, and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chair Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

He continued, basking in the much-publicized showdown with the governor: “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth, it is one of the bedrock principles of our Republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law, and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

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Mother of Facebook Live suicide teen may have taunted her while watching

In a twist to a horrible tragedy in Miami in January, a foster child who committed suicide live on social media may have been watched by her mother, according to a Florida Department of Children (DCF) and Families report released to the media Monday.

Naika Venant, 14, hung herself Jan. 22 with a scarf in the bathroom of her foster home while broadcasting the heartbreaking event for three hours in the run-up to taking her life on the Facebook Live video feature “while hundreds of viewers were watching,” a CIRRT (Critical Incident Rapid Response Team) report stated, issued by DCF at the authorization of the agency’s chief, Secretary Mike Carroll.

On Feb. 9, an abuse complaint was made to DCF, according to the report, stating that Gina Caze, Naika’s mother, was following Naika while she was on Facebook Live for the final two of the three hours before Naika committed suicide.

At points during that time, the abuse report noted, Caze posted comments that would have been “considered mentally injurious to her suicidal child” and failed to seek help for her daughter. Using the screen name “Gina Alexis,” the following statement was allegedly written by Naika’s mother in the moments leading up to her daughter’s death:

“#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody jit that’s why u where u at for this dumb sh*t n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a jit that doesn’t listen to there parents trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books.”

Carroll told a Florida House of Representatives Committee recently that Naika and her mother had been involved in multiple services to try and rectify their relationship and living situation, but “all of that wasn’t effective.”

Naika was placed in 14 different foster homes in her last nine months of life, from April 2016 to her death in January, at one point sleeping in the offices of a child welfare agency — OurKids — contracted with DCF. In and out of her mother’s custody, she spent 28 months in foster care over an eight-year period, per the report.

Caze surrendered custody of her daughter April 20, 2016, saying “she no longer wanted the child in her home,” says the CIRRT report.

A review of the case management preceding Naika’s death found that experienced child welfare social workers were involved in her situation and were committed to the responsibilities of her outcome. Further, while the caseloads of the staff working with Naika were “elevated,” it didn’t negatively affect the circumstances surrounding the teen’s suicide.

Days before her death Naika “expressed sadness to both her case manager (and someone else, though the report redacts the identity of the second person) over the fact that her mother told her that she didn’t want her back and that Naika was going to ‘age out’ of the foster care system; however, she appeared ‘upbeat and happy’ and expressed plans for the future (e.g., graduating from high school and attending college),” the report said.

On the night she ended her life, Naika spoke at length about her depression as hundreds of people watched, many writing insensitive comments – some even urging her to do it, thinking possibly it was a joke, according to previous statements and reports.

In January 2009, according to the comprehensive CIRRT report, an abuse complaint was made to DCF that Naika, then 6, “had more than 30 marks on her arms, legs, and back after her mother repeatedly beat her with a belt. The incident occurred after the mother discovered Naika engaged in a sexual act, with Naika being the aggressor.

“The incident occurred at the baby sitter’s house, another adult male with whom the mother was leaving Naika on a regular basis. Due to the severity of the physical abuse, Naika was removed from her mother and placed in licensed foster care. This was the first of three entries into foster care that Naika would experience.”

Naika continued to display behavior that was sexual in nature and she began receiving specialized counseling, the focus of which was to find if she had ever been abused in that manner. She was found to be ADHD at one point during assessments of her behavior.

Law enforcement at another caught Caze lying about where the Naika may have become sexualized at such an early age. Naika had told child welfare and mental health professionals that her mother would date several men simultaneously who would spend the night — Naika often would be made “to sleep in the bed when they were present. Additionally, both acknowledged that Naika had been previously exposed to pornographic videos before her coming into care in 2009.

It was found that Naika was mostly left with male babysitters and that inappropriate activity had transpired, including watching what she described as “sex movies” with her mother.

By the time Naika was being shifted from home to home in 2016, she had become highly aggressive, the report stated.

“There is little we can say that adequately describes the sorrow we still feel today from the loss of Naika,” Carroll said in a statement Monday. “It is even more exacerbated by the information that was learned during the CIRRT investigation – that this is a child who endured great trauma in her life and despite many service interventions, we were not able to put the pieces back together to prevent her from taking her own life in such a public forum.”

Because of the findings of the CIRRT, Carroll recommended the immediate implementation of the actions below:

— Deploy a peer review team to review communication, information sharing, and transparency within the local system of care, including the local community-based care lead agency, OurKids and their providers.

— Develop and provide training on mental health literacy for DCF child protective investigators, case managers and foster parents.

— Develop training for foster parents on the use of social media by children in their care and the warning signs of inappropriate internet behavior.

— Improve integration and establish standards for information sharing among treatment providers.

— Coordinate with the network of managed care providers and OurKids to ensure an adequate number of specialized therapeutic foster homes in the area.

 

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Lawyers: Airport shooting suspect ill but legally competent

Lawyers for the Alaska man charged in a Florida airport shooting rampage say he’s definitely mentally ill but is also competent to stand trial.

The attorneys say in court papers that 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. He’s accused in the Jan. 6 shooting that killed five and wounded six at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Santiago’s lawyers say he is taking an anti-psychotic drug and is able to communicate clearly, understand legal issues and is cooperative with jail staff. They say he is not disoriented or delusional.

A hearing is set for Wednesday on Santiago’s mental condition. He previously told the FBI he acted under government mind control, then claimed inspiration by the Islamic State extremist group.

Trial is set Oct. 2.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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‘Foster Shock’ documentary takes Florida’s privatized child welfare system to task

A documentary film about Florida’s privatized child welfare and fostering programs — made by a Guardian ad Litem and filmmaker from Palm Beach — casts a draconian look at what happens to children when they are taken from abusive situations at home and become dependents of the state, at taxpayer expense, often to their peril.

Foster Shock,” which is currently being screened around the state at community viewings and nationally film festivals, was directed and produced by Mari Frankel, who has also served as a Guardian ad Litem (person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child) for the last several years.

Her film paints the picture of a bleak and broken system funded to the tune of roughly $3 billion per year of Florida taxpayer money. The film also argues that a sizable chunk of that money often goes to the six-figure salaries of the executives running the so-called “community-based care” agencies (CBCs), like Eckerd Kids, whose own executive director, David Dennis, earned $708,028 in the fiscal year 2015, according to publicly-available IRS 990 statements.

But the children sometimes wind up in group homes, or foster homes, where they are abused or even killed – maliciously or by neglect. There have been a string of widely-publicized incidents the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has had to ultimately deal with in recent years, but the CBCs keep getting their contracts – typically worth tens of millions of dollars per county – renewed by the state.

“There is unacceptable, and then there’s disgraceful,” Frankel said at a screening of her movie at the Palm Beach International Film Festival last year. “We need to change the system to protect these children from being hurt over and over again. I hope Foster Shock will let people see the dysfunction under privatization and move them to demand action.”

The CBCs – routinely staffed by personnel who are not licensed social workers, certified master social workers or licensed clinical social workers and are packed into cubical-farm office spaces – subcontract out much of the case management work to other agencies. The case management workers who actually check on the children’s welfare are not licensed clinic social workers either and have demanding caseloads hovering around 20-30 families, depending on the county.

The film also explores the reasons children are removed from their homes. A recent review of Florida’s child welfare system by the federal government concluded DCF, and sheriff’s offices that handle child welfare investigations in six of Florida’s 67 counties, prematurely remove children from their homes.

Further, interviews with foster children who eventually age out of the system give their personal testimonies in the film, in which they were alienated from their biological parents and siblings against their will and placed into dangerous homes where they were raped, exposed to illegal drugs or are prescribed psychotropic medications, Baker Acted as minors, with the ultimate attempt to put them into adoption programs. Florida receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child that is successfully adopted under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.

The film will be screened next in at Gulfport’s Stetson University’s School of Law in Pinellas County, on March 29, 2017, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Following the movie, a panel of youth moderated by the Honorable Judge Patrice Moore, will speak about their experiences in a community conversation setting regarding the resources needed to best serve children in foster care. Representatives from GAL, Heart Gallery, Eckerd, and Big Brothers Big Sisters will be at the event.

Attendees are invited to bring full-sized hygiene donations for GAL teens living in group homes. Email Taylor at tgreenbe@law.stetson.edu for questions. Dinner will be served. Spots are limited.

RSVP here.

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Florida deputy pulls two jet skiers from water as cruise ship rushes toward them

A Port Canaveral harbor pilot and a sheriff’s deputy teamed up to rescue two spring breakers on a jet ski as a Carnival Cruise ship moved toward them.

A cruise ship passenger captured the rescue on video as Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Taner Primmer pulled the women to safety.

A Canaveral Pilots Association statement says Capt. Doug Brown spotted them while navigating the Carnival Magic out of the port and alerted Primmer. As he approached in a marine patrol boat, one woman fell off the jet ski. It flipped as she tried to get back on, sending both women into the water.

With the ship approaching, Primmer pulled them out and steered his boat away.

Area news outlets identified them as 19-year-old Skylar Penpasuglia and 20-year-old Allison Garrett of Princeton, West Virginia.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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The Grove, a witness to slavery, war and civil rights opens

Calling it a reflection of the “larger American experience,” a home that has been witness to slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights era has been opened to the public in Tallahassee.

State officials on Saturday swung open the doors to The Grove, a state-owned mansion that was once the residence to Gov. LeRoy Collins. Secretary of State Ken Detzner was joined at a ribbon-cutting by members of the extended Collins family.

The grand opening, which came after extensive renovations that cost taxpayers nearly $6 million, came one day and 108 years after Collins was born. State officials said more than 2,500 people visited the museum and the grounds on opening day.

Johnathan Grandage, the executive director of the Grove Museum, called the mansion a “window into our historic and collective heritage.” Detzner said the work done on the property would ensure that “The Grove will remain one of Florida’s most treasured historic sites.”

Built by one of Florida’s early territorial governors using slave labor, the Grove would later serve as home to Collins as he tried to shepherd the state through the civil rights era. The museum includes exhibits and artifacts that stretch over its lengthy history, including rarely heard passages from a diary kept by Ellen Call Long during the Civil War.

Long was the daughter of Richard Keith Call, an officer on Gen. Andrew Jackson’s personal staff, who modeled the home after Jackson’s Hermitage in Tennessee and is believed to have finished building it by 1831. The mansion features a wide main hallway found in many Southern homes, pinewood floors and a winding cypress staircase.

Gov. Call was living at The Grove when he reportedly chastised a group when they came to tell him Florida had voted to secede from the United States. Almost a century later, another owner of the Grove would have to confront the turbulence of the civil rights era.

Collins, who married Call’s great-granddaughter Mary, entered office in 1955. He would earn a reputation for trying to chart a moderate course on race relations instead of adopting the confrontational stance of other Southern governors. He blasted state legislators when they passed an “interposition” resolution in 1957 contending the U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools to be null and void in Florida. By the time he left office he concluded that segregation was morally wrong.

While working for the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, he was sent to Selma, Alabama. A picture of him walking alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young was used against him by opponents when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1968. Collins lost the election.

The state paid more than $2 million in the ’80s to acquire the 10 acres and the mansion located just a mile north of the state Capitol, but it included a provision that the state would not physically begin work on the property until Mary Collins died. Former Gov. Collins died in the home in 1991; his wife passed away in 2009. Both are buried on the estate.

Initially the mansion was supposed to open to the public in the fall of 2014. But it was delayed amid lawsuits with an adjoining property owner and allegations of wrongdoing among top employees overseeing the project.

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Time marches on, with a little bit more skip this weekend

Time marches on, with a bit more skip this weekend.

Daylight saving time officially re-emerges at 2 a.m. local time Sunday for most of the United States, so it’s best to advance your clocks by 60 minutes before bed.

You’ll lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night, but gain more evening light in the months ahead, when the weather warms and you want to be outdoors.

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

Standard time returns on Nov. 5.

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology says daylight saving time covers 238 days, or about 65 percent of the year.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Teacher fell asleep during school, leaving toddlers unsupervised

Five minutes could’ve been enough time for a deadly mistake to happen, a parent was reported saying after it was revealed one of the teachers at her toddler’s daycare class in Hobe Sound, Florida, had fallen asleep during class – in the class – as a second teacher was gone in a bathroom, leaving the children unsupervised.

It may be have only been a few minutes, but it was enough time for 2-year-olds to find trouble, according to Rachel Nee, whose 2-year-old son was one of five children in the class during the incident on Feb. 20.

Nee said she wasn’t notified about it by the center but got a call from DCF, informing her about the investigation, according to the NBC-affiliate in West Palm Beach, News 5.

The Department of Children and Families confirmed they are investigating the Dunbar Center, but couldn’t elaborate on an active investigation, per standard protocol.

“It was absolutely the worst phone call I’ve ever received,” Nee said on Wednesday. “I actually broke down and cried.”

DCF told Nee the teacher had fallen asleep in class.

“I think we should have been informed and other parents should have been informed when things like this happen and I shouldn’t receive a phone call from DCF,” Nee said, implying the school should have disclosed the information on their own, not through DCF.

The director of the Dunbar Center, Paul Kelly, confirmed the incident to FloridaPolitics.com on Friday.

He said two teachers were looking after the children when one of them left to go to the bathroom. The other teacher then fell asleep.

Kelly said the teacher had taken over-the-counter PM painkillers, which he said was a clear mistake on her part.

The Dunbar Center has about 90 children, many of them with special needs, according to Kelly.

Last year a DCF inspection found that the center had cleaning supplies accessible to children.

The report from March 8 said: “Bleach water was accessible in three classrooms.”

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Genetically modified mosquito trial in Keys could begin this year, company scientist says

A British company could begin releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys sometime this year, a scientist with the company said this week.

Simon Warner, the chief scientist at Oxitec, said the company is hopeful it can begin its genetically modified mosquito trial in Monroe County this year. The trial, which has been in the works for years, will mark the company’s first trial in the United States.

But Warner said the company has also been in discussions with leaders across the state interested in learning about what it would take to begin trials in the own communities. Those discussions, he said, were fueled in part by the Zika outbreak that took place last year, when hundreds cases of homegrown Zika were discovered throughout South Florida.

That some lawmakers are interested in learning more about the technology isn’t that surprising. Over the summer, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Minority Leader Janet Cruz sent a letter to then Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia Burwell and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf asking the federal government to grant Florida’s “state and local governments access to a self-limiting mosquito capable of controlling the Aedes aegypti population.”

“Clearly, our existing mosquito control measures are not adequate,” they wrote in the letter. “We must find and utilize new strategies to both curb the spread of the virus and prevent additional outbreaks.”

The company, Warner said, has had very preliminary discussions with some state lawmakers, who inquired what a trial would include and what kind of community outreach would be needed.

Warner said the company is currently approved to do research in Monroe County. While the trial was initially planned to take place in Key Haven, voters in the small community shot down a non-binding referendum placed on the 2016 ballot meant to gauge support for the trial.

A second referendum covering the entirety of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District passed. Days later, local officials gave Oxitec the OK to move forward with the trial.

For more than a decade, Oxitec has found its genetically modified insects have served as effective mosquito control tool, effectively reducing the population and slowing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. The company has seen success in the Cayman Islands, Panama and Brazil.

The reason for the success? The company has figured out how to modify Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to include a self-limiting gene. Bred in a lab, offspring can survive in controlled settings because the water is laced with an antidote that blocks the gene. But when non-biting males are released into they wild, they mate with the local female population. Outside of a lab setting, the offspring can’t survive.

In an urban environment, the Oxitec mosquito can reduce a population within six months. By comparison, insecticides can reduce a population by 30- to 50 percent.

With results like that, Warner — who is in Miami this week to participate in the International Conference on Global Health at Florida International University — said Oxitec is beginning to look at how their mosquitoes have impacted public health.

The company has long believed that reducing the mosquito population will lead to reducing mosquito-borne diseases, Warner said its now planning to do research on the topic.

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Florida couple face ‘shocking’ 700+ counts of abuse against fostered, adopted children

Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon

A couple living in southwest Florida have been charged in Alabama with 727 counts of sexual crimes and physical abuses against their 11 adopted and foster children, law enforcement officials in both states told FloridaPolitics.com Friday.

Police in both states are calling it the most shocking case they’ve ever seen.

“I’ve been working sex crimes involving kids for 12 years and this is by far the worst I’ve had so far,” Detective Keith Johnson, of the Florence Police Department in Lauderdale County, Alabama, said by telephone Friday.

Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon, 47 and 53, respectively, are being held without bond in the Lee County Jail in Fort Myers, Florida.

None of the children in the Spurgeon’s care came from Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims.

“It’s important to note that there were no Florida foster children placed in the home with the family,” she emphasized. “Further information cannot be disclosed per section 39.202, Florida Statutes, which provides confidentiality to child victims of abuse or neglect. Any questions regarding the original placement of the children and services for the adopted/foster children should be directed to Alabama’s child services agency.”

Sims noted DCF opened a child protective investigation in July concerning the allegations regarding this family. All children in the home were immediately taken into protective custody, she said.

“The adopted and foster children in the home were placed with the family while they lived in Alabama,” she further clarified. “Since the foster children were in the process of being adopted, they were allowed to move with the family from Alabama to Florida under the federal Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.”

Police originally learned of the case when they responded to a tip of two minors at a Cape Coral bar who were inebriated last July, claiming their parents had forced them to drink alcohol, according to documents provided to FloridaPolitics.com.

During the interviews with the two intoxicated minors, Cape Coral Police investigators learned that four girls under the Spurgeon’s care were claiming they’d been sexually abused and were from Alabama.

“That’s when I got a call from the Cape Coral police,” Johnson said. “It’s taken this long to get everything done because the children had to be interviewed (on video) in Florida and I had to review each one, and before I charge someone with a sex crime I’ve got to make sure that there’s no doubt.”

Daniel Spurgeon has remained in the Lee County Jail since his original arrest.

The number of counts stemming from Alabama alone total 415 and include multiple counts of sodomy in the first degree (4), sexual torture (4), sexual abuse of a child under 12 (2), sexual abuse in the first degree (115), child abuse (122), sexual torture (4), rape in the first degree (6), domestic violence by strangulation and/or suffocation (3), incest (6), human trafficking in the first degree (11) and enticing a child for immoral purposes (115).

That does not include Florida’s charges.

His charges in the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida, as represented by state’s attorney Stephen B. Russell, are as follows: One count sexual battery of a victim under 12; four counts lewd and lascivious behavior against a minor; one count sexual assault of a victim under 12; 11 counts aggravated child abuse.

“They’ve got similar charges down there (in Florida), but we’ve got more because they were here longer,” Johnson said.

Daniel Spurgeon is a native Alabamian, while Jenise Spurgeon was from “somewhere up north,” the investigator said.

Originally arrested in July, too, then released, and then arrested again Wednesday per a warrant issued by Johnson in Alabama.

She is charged in Alabama with multiple counts of child abuse (100), domestic violence by strangulation (1), human trafficking in the first degree (11), endangering the welfare of a child (100) and enticing a child for immoral purposes (100).

Her charges in the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida are as follows: one count out-of-state fugitive from justice; 10 counts aggravated child abuse.

It’s unknown if the state’s attorney office plans on filing more charges. A call placed to his office was not immediately returned.

Children’s Network of Southwest Florida claimed the children went almost six months without monthly checkups from a state agency because Alabama never notified them that the family moved to their state.

It is unclear if Children’s Network of Southwest Florida is trying to deflect blame, but calls to clarify their claim to the Alabama Dept. of Human Resources — the agency tasked with child welfare in that state — were not immediately returned before this article was published.

The Spurgeon’s will be extradited to Alabama, Johnson said, but it is not clear when. When they are brought to Alabama, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office will be handling the case, not Cape Coral, officials in both states said.

The Alabama charges against the pair stem from sex late 2007 to 2015, when they moved to Florida. Johnson would not confirm if it is a crime in Alabama to leave the state with foster children, but considering the human trafficking charges against the couple it most likely is a crime.

However, he noted the adopted children would remain in Florida while the foster children would be brought back to Alabama, though part of his statement conflicted with that of Sims from DCF.

FloridaPolitics.com is still waiting on information on whether Florida prosecutors will hold on to the couple to try them in the Sunshine State before allowing their extradition to Alabama for judicial proceedings there.

 

g case they’ve ever seen.

“I’ve been working sex crimes involving kids for 12 years and this is by far the worst I’ve had so far,” Detective Keith Johnson, of the Florence Police Department in Lauderdale County, Alabama, said by telephone Friday.

Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon, 47 and 53, respectively, are being held without bond in the Lee County Jail in Fort Myers, Florida.

None of the children in the Spurgeon’s care came from Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims.

“It’s important to note that there were no Florida foster children placed in the home with the family,” she emphasized. “Further information cannot be disclosed per section 39.202, Florida Statutes, which provides confidentiality to child victims of abuse or neglect. Any questions regarding the original placement of the children and services for the adopted/foster children should be directed to Alabama’s child services agency.”

Sims noted DCF opened a child protective investigation in July concerning the allegations regarding this family. All children in the home were immediately taken into protective custody, she said.

“The adopted and foster children in the home were placed with the family while they lived in Alabama,” she further clarified. “Since the foster children were in the process of being adopted, they were allowed to move with the family from Alabama to Florida under the federal Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.”

Police originally learned of the case when they responded to a tip of two minors at a Cape Coral bar who were inebriated last July, claiming their parents had forced them to drink alcohol, according to documents provided to FloridaPolitics.com.

During the interviews with the two intoxicated minors, Cape Coral Police investigators learned that four girls under the Spurgeon’s care were claiming they’d been sexually abused and were from Alabama.

“That’s when I got a call from the Cape Coral police,” Johnson said. “It’s taken this long to get everything done because the children had to be interviewed (on video) in Florida and I had to review each one, and before I charge someone with a sex crime I’ve got to make sure that there’s no doubt.”

Daniel Spurgeon has remained in the Lee County Jail since his original arrest.

The number of counts stemming from Alabama alone total 415 and include multiple counts of sodomy in the first degree (4), sexual torture (4), sexual abuse of a child under 12 (2), sexual abuse in the first degree (115), child abuse (122), sexual torture (4), rape in the first degree (6), domestic violence by strangulation and/or suffocation (3), incest (6), human trafficking in the first degree (11) and enticing a child for immoral purposes (115).

That does not include Florida’s charges. FloridaPolitics.com is waiting on documents that will reveal the full extent of the Florida legal involvement and will update this story when it receives them later today.

“They’ve got similar charges down there (in Florida), but we’ve got more because they were here longer,” Johnson said.

Daniel Spurgeon is a native Alabamian, while Jenise Spurgeon was from “somewhere up north,” the investigator said.

Originally arrested in July, too, then released, and then arrested again Wednesday per a warrant issued by Johnson in Alabama.

She is charged in Alabama with multiple counts of child abuse (100), domestic violence by strangulation (1), human trafficking in the first degree (11), endangering the welfare of a child (100) and enticing a child for immoral purposes (100).

Her counts in Florida also still need to be verified by FloridaPolitics.com.

Children’s Network of Southwest Florida claimed the children went almost six months without monthly checkups from a state agency because Alabama never notified them that the family moved to their state.

It is unclear if Children’s Network of Southwest Florida is trying to deflect blame, but calls to clarify their claim to the Alabama Dept. of Human Resources — the agency tasked with child welfare in that state — were not immediately returned before this article was published.

The Spurgeon’s will be extradited to Alabama, Johnson said, but it is not clear when. When they are brought to Alabama, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office will be handling the case, not Cape Coral, officials in both states said.

The Alabama charges against the pair stem from sex late 2007 to 2015, when they moved to Florida. Johnson would not confirm if it is a crime in Alabama to leave the state with foster children, but considering the human trafficking charges against the couple it most likely is a crime.

However, he noted the adopted children would remain in Florida while the foster children would be brought back to Alabama, though part of his statement conflicted with that of Sims from DCF.

FloridaPolitics.com is still waiting on information on whether Florida prosecutors will hold on to the couple to try them in the Sunshine State before allowing their extradition to Alabama for judicial proceedings there.

 

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