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The Tampa Bay Times
By HOWARD ALTMAN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 14, 2008 Updated: 11:26 am
TAMPA – The 2-year-old girl was supposed to be in her crib, police say, but when her mother passed out Sunday night after mixing prescription medication with alcohol, she climbed out and toddled over to the balcony where her mother was sleeping it off.
The child was on the balcony at least four hours without supervision and was seen by neighbors eating cigarette butts, according to police records, which describe what police found:
Tiffany Nicole Garland, 21, who in jail records lists her occupation as an entertainer at Mons Venus, lives alone with the child.
Sunday evening she took an unknown quantity of the antidepressant Paxil, drank some alcohol and passed out on the balcony of a unit at the Gardens of South Bay Apartments, at 6720 S. Lois Ave.
After the baby was spotted on the balcony, police were called.
They arrived shortly after 11 p.m. and found a witness, a maintenance worker and James Varas, the child’s father, trying to get in the apartment.
The baby had been up there for several hours. Garland was sitting in a chair, covered with a blanket, and not responding to repeated shouts to get her attention.
As police waited for the maintenance worker to return with a master key, they watched the baby holding the balcony’s metal railing. Those watching were concerned that the child might try to climb the railing or squeeze between the bars and fall.
When the maintenance worker returned, Officer David Peck tried opening the door as Officer Thomas Mayo stood under the balcony, trying to keep the child occupied and prevent her from climbing the rails. The key, however, would not work.
With Peck fumbling with the key, Mayo shouted that police needed to get in the apartment right away.
Peck tried several times to kick the door in. When that didn’t work, he used his baton to break the bottom sash of the front window. He opened it, climbed inside, shouting, “Tampa police,” and ran toward the balcony. He opened the door, ran out to the balcony, pulled the child away from the railing and passed her to her father.
Despite all the commotion, Garland remained motionless on the chair. Peck yelled at her several times and pushed her before she woke up. Peck said she smelled of alcohol.
When Peck asked Garland where her baby was, she said, “She’s in her crib.”
After being told that the baby had been on the balcony for several hours, Garland expressed disbelief and became combative, yelling at the police and the baby’s father. At this point, police handcuffed her.
“I just turned 21, and I’m not used to drinking,” she said. “I had only three or four shots of tequila tonight, and the shots just hit me all of a sudden.” She also explained that she was taking the Paxil for depression.
During the investigation, police found the apartment “absolutely filthy.” Dirty clothing was strewn on the floor of every room, and the kitchen smelled of rotten trash. The kitchen contained only a half gallon of milk, some eggs and a half full 1.75 liter bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila.
Garland was charged with child neglect and was being held at Orient Road Jail. Bail was set at $7,500.
The baby was turned over to Varas after police went to his mother’s house – where he is living – and found it to be in good condition, with a crib, food and clothing.
Editor Howard Altman can be reached at (83) 259-7629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.