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Updated: 12/04/2013 04:54:01PM

Woman charged after toddlers found living in filth

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VENICE — Authorities went looking for a registered sex offender on Tuesday and instead found two small children living in deplorable conditions, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, who claim the children’s mother was high on prescription medication and not caring for her kids.

Donnalee Elizabeth Ballard, 22, invited deputies into her trailer around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday to wait for James Russell Denegall, 36, who had violated his probation on lewd and lascivious and sexual battery charges and was living with Ballard. But, as authorities stepped into the trailer they found something else entirely; the floor was covered in garbage, rotting food and dirty clothes, while the kitchen sink was overflowing with dirty dishes and molded food. They also found used feminine hygiene products on the kitchen floor, according to a report, although Ballard would later claim they were not hers. In the middle of all of this, two toddlers came wandering into the room among the filth, themselves covered in dirt, the report states. Both kids, ages 1 and 2, walked barefoot across the floor, which was soiled with dirty diapers, garbage and used needle caps. The children’s rooms were an equal mess, the report states, as their beds were dirty, had no clean sheets and were littered with empty beer cans. There was also a lighter in the bed where the 2-year-old slept, the report states. The state Department of Children and Families placed the toddlers in foster care, pending an investigation. Ballard was charged with two counts of child neglect and taken into custody. She was transported to the Sarasota County Jail, where she remains on $5,000 bond. Denegall was also located and arrested on Tuesday. He violated his probation stemming from a 2005 incident in which he had sex with a 15-year-old girl in North Port, according to court records. It’s unknown how he violated his probation. He also remains jailed without bond.

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