JACKSONVILLE - A mother accused of leaving her 2-year-old daughter in a locked apartment to survive on ketchup, macaroni and mustard for 19 days while she was jailed pleaded no contest Friday and was sentenced to 18 months' probation.
Dakeysha Lee, 23, entered the plea to one count of child abuse under an agreement with prosecutors. She had been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect and could have received five years in prison for each.
Lee is required to take a parenting class, receive a psychological evaluation, perform 50 hours of community service and pay $338 in court costs.
The no contest plea only dealt with leaving the child alone on Sept. 10, 2003, the first day Lee was jailed on unrelated charges. The girl's father, Odgen Lee, says he found his daughter alone in his estranged wife's apartment on Sept. 29, 2003. He said he had been unable to contact his wife for about two weeks, not knowing she was in jail.
When the apartment manager let him in, he found his daughter lying nude in a baby's bathtub, covered with a towel, watching a TV cartoon channel, he said. She was filthy and covered with dried ketchup and jelly.
The child had managed to open the refrigerator and get into the pantry, eating anything she could find, including dry spaghetti and macaroni. The floor was covered in eggs, urine and feces. The child was treated at a hospital for dehydration and was malnourished. She now lives with her father, who is in the Navy, stationed in Virginia.
"I'm glad it's all over with," Dakeysha Lee said after Friday's hearing. Asked about her plans, she replied, "to get my daughter back."
Prosecutors said Dakeysha Lee did not tell authorities her daughter was home alone when she was jailed on aggravated assault and petty theft charges, later dropped.
Ogden Lee was not in court but had a friend read a statement, which said the child is doing well and is attending preschool, where her social skills have improved and she has been potty trained.
"This ordeal has brought me and my daughter closer," Lee's statement said.