DCF roundup: ‘Beating, burning … electrical shocking’ of children; another infant’s death is Dept’s third visit

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Brace yourself, because this is the Lord’s Day and we here at Florida Politics don’t like being the bearer of bad news on Sunday, but it is what it is. Save a few prayers for the souls in today’s roundup, especially the first two entries, which are ugly and uglier.

— We begin in Fort Myers, where municipal police were notified by Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) investigators in late February there was a certain amount of disturbing information being gathered on one Jhonson Benel and his family, according to Fort Myers Police Department Lt. Jay Rodriguez, who confirmed Benel’s arrest to FloridaPolitics.com early Sunday morning.

Benel, 37, was charged with one count of aggravated child abuse and two counts of child neglect (without bodily harm) and quickly posted a $40,000 bond in just four and a half hours after being arrested. However, some of the details coming out of the case are, indeed, disturbing.

According to Rodriguez, there was no sexual abuse, but rather “physical abuse – to the extent of bruising, beating, burning and possibly even electrical shocking,” he said.

It’s assumed Benel is the father of the two minor children, whose names and ages are being protected due to privacy laws.

Rodriguez wasn’t aware of whether or not Benel’s prior history included child abuse. Most aspects of the case are confidential at this time, as the investigation is ongoing – standard protocol in DCF cases. But the basic facts are there were two children being abused – one potentially more than the other.

A regional DCF spokesperson told The News-Press that both children had been placed in the care of relatives.

Moving on …

— We switch to the east coast of Florida, to Loxahatchee in Palm Beach County, where an 11-month-old toddler boy was discovered by his “caregiver” in the crib “whimpering” with a blanket wrapped around his neck, according to The Palm Beach Post. A week later, on Wednesday, after being on life support, he was dead, the story says.

This wasn’t the first time something unusual had happened to the boy, who lived in both Palm Beach and Broward counties during his short stint on this planet.

His death marks the third investigation into the boy by DCF investigators, the Post reported.

“DCF fielded at least two reports of abuse in the baby’s 11 months of life, the first being not long after he was born. Department records do not indicate the nature of the incident, beyond stating that the boy was eventually placed into his mother’s care,” the Post said. “At least one of those investigations yielded verified proof either of abuse or neglect.”

It was unclear on Sunday whether the “caregiver” under whose care the boy was in was a family member or not, but one thing is clear, his care was in constant question.

“We are devastated to learn of the loss of this child and we grieve with all those who cared for him,” DCF Sec. Mike Carroll said in a statement Friday, according to the Post. “The family is known to the child welfare system, and because of the history and ongoing involvement, a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team will be deployed to review all interaction with this child.”

The Post noted 23 children died in Palm Beach County in 2016, with at least two of them having been determined to be homicides.

“The family’s of those two children both had been investigated multiple times by the department,” the Post concluded.

— Next up, we move to the Panhandle and Walton County, where a 23-month-old toddler was left alone for an undetermined amount of time and was found “unresponsive” while in the care of his drugged out father, according to Panama City’s digital newspaper, MyPanhandle.com, last week.

Sheriff’s deputies pulled over Joshua Daniel Huckaba on State Highway 83 and discovered the child unconscious and took him to the hospital, where he was treated and released.

Huckaba admitted to law enforcers he had been using pot in the car, presumably with the toddler still inside – helpless to the wafting smoke. Huckaba was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia, the news outlet said.

DCF is said to be investigating.

— And on to Orange City, where we bring you a bizarre story that might seem humorous if only for the sheer lack of training or overwhelming ignorance on the part of the staff of an assisted-living facility for seniors.

On Friday the Daytona Beach News Journal reported the strange situation of a resident patient who had a thing for pulling his pants down and exposing himself. Apparently there were “numerous incidents of sexual contact between one male patient and multiple female patients,” the News Journal noted in its lede sentence.

The report cites the investigation as being carried out by regulators with the state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which did not note whether the encounters were consensual. (We asked you to pray for these souls, didn’t we? It gets worse … )

As the News-Journal continued, citing AHCA documentation: “In all, the agency documented six incidents, according to AHCA officials: the man was twice found engaging in sexual intercourse with another patient; he touched staff members inappropriately; he was found once locked in the bathroom with another patient with his pants down; and he exposed himself, forcing female patients to touch his genitals.”

Wow. We’re at a loss for words it’s so disturbing.

And the reference to humor? There’s nothing really humorous here – it was a hook to keep you reading through to this story. The reference is actually disturbing.

Staff reported the incidents to senior managers, but the facility’s top executives did not change anything.

“What’s more, regulators said, employees were unaware that they were also required to report the incidents to Florida’s Department of Children and Families,” the News-Journal said. “AHCA officials concluded: ‘The facility lacks a cogent understanding of a resident’s right to personal dignity, individuality, and privacy.’”


The investigation is still ongoing.

And finally

— DCF officials issued the two recalls this morning regarding Evanger’s dog and cat food, and Meijer ham and cheese sandwiches for those of us who like pre-made food. Please take note for the safety of your loved ones, which include your pets:

Evanger’s Pet Food and Against the Grain Voluntarily Recalls Additional Products Out of Abundance of Caution due to Potential Adulteration with Pentobarbital

Out of an abundance of caution, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food is voluntarily expanding its recall of Hunk of Beef and is also recalling Evanger’s Braised Beef and Against the Grain’s Pulled Beef Products due to potential adulteration with pentobarbital. Oral exposure to pentobarbital can cause drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner), inability to stand, coma and death. Consumers who notice these symptoms in their pets should consult their veterinarian.

Meijer Expands Recall To Include Meijer Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese And Pre-Made Ham Sub Sandwich Due To Possible Health Risk

Meijer expanded its list of recalled items to now include its Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese and its pre-wrapped Ham Sub on Artisan White Baguette due to a potential cross contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, a Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.