A Jacksonville woman who was living in a filthy motel room in Connecticut with four children has been arrested after a police officer found her 3-year-old son wandering on a street dressed only in a diaper and blanket in below-freezing temperatures, authorities said.
Police say Officer Carlos Roman put the boy in his cruiser to warm him up Thursday morning and officers began searching the area for his parents. Authorities say they found the boy's mother, 30-year-old April Pardy, sleeping in a nearby motel room with three other children under the age of 12.
Sgt. David Tammaro, a spokesman for West Haven police, said Pardy and the children were living in squalor.
"The room was in deplorable condition with trash, old food, dirty diapers, a ferret and a dog," he said.
Pardy was charged with felony risk of injury to a minor and allowing an unsupervised child in a public place. She was freed on $5,000 bail and was ordered to appear in Superior Court on April 8.
"We had been investigating thoroughly. We had talked to many people who knew the family," said Florida DCF spokesman John Harrell. "A major challenge in this investigation was the mother continued to keep the children away from us."
Pardy couldn't be reached for comment Friday. A phone listing for her could not be found, and it's not clear if she has a lawyer.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families took custody of all four children. Police said it was about 25 degrees outside when Roman found the boy.
Authorities said it's not clear how long Pardy, a former resident of Derby, Conn., had been living at the motel with the children.
DCF could not gain access to the children so they did not have enough evidence to take the kids from Pardy.
"Once we did get that evidence we met with our attorneys, got immediate authorization to take the children into protective custody. However at that time the family was not at the home," said Harrell. "We later found out they were in Connecticut. Meanwhile during that time, we've gone back to that home to locate that family and locate those kids."
Channel 4 has also learned of a fifth child who is the oldest of the children that lived inside Pardy's Java Drive home in Jacksonville. DCF said workers in both Florida and Connecticut are looking for that child and the father of the child.
DCF said while they do need to find the child, they do not believe the oldest child is in any danger. The gender and age of the oldest child was not revealed to Channel 4.
Neighbors told Channel 4 they were alarmed by what they saw happening in and around the Jacksonville home.
"You just always hear them arguing and hollering anytime of night -- jumping on a trampoline, on the roof, it doesn't matter. It's just awkward," said Jorge Perez.
Pardy was arrested in Jacksonville in December after police said she stole items from Walmart on Beach Boulevard so she could "give her children a good Christmas."