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Palm Harbor Beacon
Missing toddler leads to couple’s arrest
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Jeffrey O’Neil and Jennifer Kovacs
OLDSMAR – Two persons were arrested for child abuse and animal cruelty during an investigation stemming from a call about a missing toddler.

Just before 6 a.m. Jan. 6, Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of a missing 16-month-old from a residence on Lee Street in Oldsmar.

Jeffrey O’Neil, 28, and Jennifer Kovacs, 26, reported that the child, whom they were caring for had crawled out of the crib, opened the front door and had been missing for at least an hour.

When deputies arrived on scene, they found the couple to be under the influence of alcohol. Deputies also found a note from a relative who advised they had picked up the child and taken her to their home because they could not wake O’Neil and the child was crying. The child was located with the relative and in good condition.

As deputies conducted the investigation, they discovered the home to be in deplorable condition with more than 100 animals in 88 cages. Deputies said the animals were being bred and sold without the proper licensing and conditions.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was called to the scene to investigate and remove the animals from the home. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was also notified.

O’Neil and Kovacs were transported to the Pinellas County Jail without further incident.

Animals identified so far include seven Burmese pythons, 20 unknown types of snakes, seven monitor lizards, 100 bearded lizards, two scorpion spiders (dead) and about 100 rats, mice, birds, rabbits, Guinea pigs, squirrels, hamsters, gerbils and hedgehogs.

Deputies said three rats and one hamster were dead and half consumed by other animals kept in the house. The animals were kept outside and throughout the home. One of the lizards was believed to have burrowed in the backyard and was in the process of being located and removed.

The investigation continues.
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Phone: (727) 397-5563
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