Sarasota, FL -- A Sarasota woman has been charged with child abuse after investigators say she doused her children with bleach and pool chemicals.
Officials say they had been called out to the woman's home more than two dozen times, but only now have the children been placed in protective custody.
Since moving to Florida from Michigan in 2008, records show police and other agencies have been called out to 38-year-old Sandra Freeman's home a mind-boggling 27 times. Most of those calls, they say, stem from loud arguments with boyfriends. Some, for suspicion of child abuse.
And yet, until this week, her four children remained in Freeman's care.
That was until Sarasota County deputies arrested her on Wednesday, when Freeman's 19-year-old son made the difficult decision to report his own mother.
"He was doing it to protect his minor brothers and sisters," said sheriff's spokesperson Wendy Rose.
Detectives accuse Freeman of dousing her children, including 15 and 10-year-old daughters and an 18-month-old son, with pure bleach and chlorine.
They say she forced the youngest to walk through powdered pool chemicals, leaving burns and blisters on his feet.
Detectives suspect Freeman's older son and daughters have also been victims of beatings, even choking, but charges filed against her in 2008 were later dropped.
According to the arrest affidavit, family members accuse her of abusing drugs, and say Freeman believed she was being infected by insects coming from her children.
"She was making the children jump either into a pool after it had been shocked, or used bleach or used other chemicals to cleanse themselves of what she perceived as a bug problem," said Rose.
"You can't believe that women will do things like that as mothers," said Jane Madden, a neighbor in Freeman's Venice neighborhood.
Others also describe Freeman's alleged behavior as unconscionable, and question why it took so long for officials to act. M.J. Kempner, who lives next door, says he was glad to see Freeman finally arrested.
"I'm surprised that the Department of Child Services didn't do this earlier because she needs to be somewhere besides here that's for sure," he said.
The Department of Children and Families says it's been aware of Freeman's case for some time and that agency investigators have even been present during some of law enforcement's visits to the home.
A DCF spokesman says they briefly took Freeman's children away earlier this year, but that a judge denied a petition to have the children moved out of the house permanently.
Officials say the father of Freeman's 18-month-old son had also complained to state officials about his son's condition when he would pick the child up for scheduled visitation.
For now, Freeman remains in jail on three counts of child abuse. Her bond has been set at $50,000 per count.
DCF says the children have been taken into protective custody. The daughters, we're told, have been placed with the same foster family and the 18-month-old son is now with his biological father, who lives in Venice.
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