Stepmother accused of abusing autistic girl - WFLA News Channel 8

Stepmother accused of abusing autistic girl

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PHILADELPHIA, PA (WFLA) -

A second person is now charged with abusing an 11-year-old autistic girl who died this week.

Misty Stoddard, 35, is accused of abusing her stepdaughter Melissa, who came to live with the family in Florida several months ago.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says the couple tied the girl to a wooden board, and used straps and tape to restrain her. Melissa's siblings reported the girl having duct tape put over her mouth and being thrown in the pool, according to an arrest report.

The girl's father Ken Stoddard, 35, was arrested earlier this week. Both Misty and Ken Stoddard face aggravated child abuse charges, but authorities say the charges could be upgraded if they can prove the alleged abuse led to the girl's death.

Melissa Stoddard was found unconscious one night last week, and later died. Officially, she died of hypoxia, or a deprivation of oxygen. Investigators are waiting for additional information from medical experts.

The abuse investigation began after doctors treating Melissa noticed marks on her arms and legs.

A judge set bond for Misty Stoddard at $50,000. Kenneth Stoddard is being held on no bond.

All five of the other children in the Stoddard home have been removed by the Department of Children and Families and are being placed in foster care. Misty Stoddard also told authorities she is 18 weeks pregnant.

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