A father who admitted to "hogtying" his autistic daughter is charged with aggravated child abuse and could face more charges after the girl's death, deputies say.
Kenneth Stoddard, 35, is charged with aggravated child abuse and is being held on no bond at the Sarasota County Jail.
Stoddard admitted he and the woman he lived with used straps, tape and strings to restrain his daughter, saying he was trying to prevent her from hurting herself or other children in the home, according to a report from the sheriff's office. Deputies also say the girl was tied to a plywood board with holes drilled into it that they found in the woods.
"In 30 years, I can't think of another case where it's been so obviously blatant that a child was mistreated in this fashion, it just defies common sense," said Capt. Jeff Bell of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
Melissa Stoddard, 11, died on Monday of "hypoxia," which is caused by a lack of oxygen. Investigators are still trying to determine how the alleged abuse they discovered may have played a role in her death.
Melissa Stoddard moved to Sarasota County from her mother's home in North Carolina several months ago, authorities said. The abuse investigation began last week after the girl was found unconscious by the woman referred to as the girl's "stepmother" but not married to her father. After being taken to All Children's Hospital, Melissa was declared brain dead. She died on Dec. 17.
While at the hospital, authorities say doctors noticed marks on Melissa's arms and legs, tipping off the investigation that sent Kenneth Stoddard to jail.
The five other children living in the home - ages seven months to 15 years old – were removed and are being placed in foster care, a spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families said.
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