Girl, 2, copes at home alone for three weeks

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The Independent US

A two-year-old girl was taken into care last night after her mother left her at home alone for three weeks while she was in jail, according to police in Florida.

The toddler survived alone in her mother's apartment by helping herself to ketchup, mustard and other items of food she found in the kitchen cupboard.

After three weeks, her father discovered her sitting cold, dirty and hungry in the bathtub of the empty flat with only a towel draped around her.

Her mother, Dakeysha Telita Lee, 20, has been charged with child abuse for failing to tell the authorities that her daughter was at home alone when she was arrested on 10 September in connection with aggravated battery.

The child was found to be suffering from malnutrition and was taken into care pending the outcome of an investigation by the Department of Children and Families, the state child welfare agency, according to Ken Jefferson, spokesman for Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in Florida.

"She had subsisted on mustard, ketchup, dried pasta. She cleared out the lower cabinets looking for food as well as the refrigerator," he said. "Everything was on the bed in the bedroom. Obviously she had found other things than the ketchup to eat."

Ogden Lee, the child's father, described how he had been trying to contact his estranged partner for two weeks, unaware that she was in jail and had left their child in the flat unattended. When he tracked her down, he claimed that Miss Lee told him that their daughter was with neighbours.

However, when he was unable to locate her, he persuaded the manager of the building to let him into the apartment in an attempt to clarify where the girl might be.

The alarm was raised when he found his daughter huddled in the bath covered with dried ketchup and with food scattered over the flat.

Describing the moment he saw his daughter, he told the Florida Times-Union newspaper: "She grabbed me and wouldn't let go of me. It really is a miracle how good a shape my daughter is in. I don't know how she did it."

There was no evidence that anyone had visited the apartment during the three-week period in which the child was left alone, according to police.

Pattie Mallon, an official with the Department of Children and Families in Jacksonville, said: "The child is safe and in our care. We are in awe of her spirit to survive and we are making every effort to ensure her safety and well being."

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