Thursday, December 19, 2013

Custodial dad charged with manslaughter in torture-murder of 11-year-old daughter (Sarasota, Florida)

The custodial dad is identified as KENNETH STODDARD.

It is implied that the step was the really bad one, she is charged with murder. In cases involving custodial mothers and bad boyfriends/stepdads, the mother is often abused as well, making it very difficult to intervene against the enraged man. Not sure what Mr. Stoddard's excuse would be. Was the step bigger than he? More powerful? I doubt it.

Mom's household was far from perfect, but I wonder if the "older sibling" who allegedly sexually abused the girl could have been removed from the premises, thus allowing the girl to stay. And even with all the problems at Mom's, could it have been as bad as Daddy's house?

This scenario is not uncommon. The child is removed from the mother's home for neglect or other charges, only to be placed in worst hellhole at the father's.

Father faces more charges in autistic daughter's death

By Gabrielle Russon

Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.

SARASOTA - On the exact one-year anniversary of his disabled daughter's death, Kenneth Stoddard was charged with two new felonies, including manslaughter.

Authorities have said Melissa, an autistic 11-year-old, was tortured, hog-tied and duct-taped to keep from crying out. Melissa died from lack of oxygen to the brain after she was found not breathing in her bedroom last December.

If convicted of aggravated manslaughter of a child under 18 — a first-degree felony — Stoddard, 36, could serve up to 30 years in prison.

A third-degree felony count of tampering with evidence was also filed Tuesday. The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison.

Stoddard allegedly removed a board from his Sarasota County house that had been used to restrain Melissa, prosecutor Karen Fraivillig said.

The two additional charges come a year after he was charged with aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm.

Even with the new charges, Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Frederick Mercurio said Tuesday he expects the trial to continue as planned for February.

Kenneth Stoddard's common-law wife, Misty Stoddard, 36, is still in Sarasota County jail, awaiting charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. She attended Tuesday's court hearing, dressed in orange inmate garb, but did not speak.

Kenneth Stoddard, who was not required to be at the hearing, has been out of jail since he posted bail in April.

The Stoddards' defense attorneys say their clients are innocent.

For much of Melissa's young life, she was abused, court documents show.

She lived with her mother and brother in North Carolina until her older sibling sexually abused her, according to a Department of Children and Families report.

That is why Melissa moved to rural Sarasota County to stay with her biological father and his common-law wife and their blended family. The Stoddards' home life was complicated. Misty, who was still legally married to somebody else, was pregnant.

At the Stoddards' home, Melissa was treated differently from her five other siblings and often singled out for corporal punishment, court documents show.

Photographs reveal the bare mattress where Melissa slept and the wooden board she was tied to, according to part of the court evidence against the Stoddards.

In a home video, Misty Stoddard stood inside the family home, filming Melissa as the child cried outside and begged to be let in.

In the last few weeks of her life, her caregivers did not allow her to attend Oak Park School, a public school for disabled students that Melissa was enrolled in during the 2012-13 year.

During her last months, she lost 40 pounds. When she died, she weighed 80 pounds, a DCF report said.

On Dec. 12, 2012, her stepmother went into Melissa's bedroom to check on her and discovered the child was not breathing. Melissa died five days later at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.