Woman Kept severely Autistic Child Locked Inside of Wood and Metal Cage, Palm Bay police say

Woman Kept severely Autistic Child Locked Inside of Wood and Metal Cage, Palm Bay police say

PALM BAY, Fla. — A woman is facing charges after Palm Bay police say she abused children in her care.

Melissa Ann Doss, 43, has been taken into custody for three counts of child neglect and one count of child abuse. Officers were first called to the area of Fillmore Avenue Northeast on July 24, when a neighbor reported they saw a child inside of their screened-in patio. The responding officer was able to determine the female child was nonverbal and had a disability. Officers figured out that the child lived next door.

When police went to Doss' home, she refused to open the door. Eventually, she was seen climbing over the backyard fence and met with officers at the front door. Doss said she had been sleeping and wasn't aware that the child had left the home. She again refused to let officers inside the home to check for environmental hazards. Later the same day, officers were called back to the area because the child was back at the neighbor's home. Doss stated that she is "at the end of her rope," before refusing again to let police inside the house.

Police said she stated, "if you saw the inside of my resident, DCF [would be called]." A child protective investigator was called the next day. Upon entering Doss' home through the back door, "the immediate smell of feces and urine was strongly present." Officials said there was trash, bugs, spiders, flies scattered throughout the house and that no part of the floor was visible. Officials said large chunks of the roof were collapsing. Mold was seen throughout the entire home.

The officer noted that the residence did not have working bathrooms. Doss said, "they use the restroom in a bucket and throw the waste in the backyard." Officials said the house had no access to food or water, calling the home "uninhabitable."

The child protective investigator learned that Doss and one child shared a bed. Next to the bed, the officer learned there is a homemade metal and wood cage. Inside the cage is a blanket and pillow, where another child was kept. Officers were told Doss locks the child inside the cage at night and the child screams in the morning until Doss lets her out. Officials stated that the child kept in the cage is nonverbal and has severe autism. Doss appeared before a judge Monday afternoon and was given a $20,000 bond.

Chelsea Robinson