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Mom tells of son's abuse

The St. Petersburg woman is angry at the man accused of turning her 10-year-old into a drug pusher and abusing him.

Published August 4, 2006

CLEARWATER — Priscilla Williams arrived at the Pinellas County Courthouse on Friday afternoon with a mission.

She wanted to make sure that the man accused of burning her 10-year-old son’s face with a cigarette remained in jail. And she wanted to encourage other children in St. Petersburg’s Childs Park who may have been brutalized by Robert Bligen to come forward.

“He’s sick in the head,” Williams, 25, told reporters Friday at the courthouse.  “I know he went after other kids, and they’re too scared to talk about it. He threatened to kill them.”

She said her son told officers about one youth with a gash on his back and another boy with bruises on his body.
Williams’ son has become an emblem of the brutality of the drug trade in Childs Park.

St. Petersburg police arrested Bligen on Wednesday, saying he recruited the boy to sell drugs and then burned his face more than 50 times with a cigarette because the boy decided to play with friends instead.

The boy told police that he endured the abuse because he wanted to keep working to save enough money to buy a go-cart. He got a few dollars every night for selling a white powder on the street, police said.

Bligen, 46, was in court Friday for a bail hearing. A judge kept his bail at $50,000, which Bligen was unable to post Friday. The Public Defender’s Office has entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Williams arrived too late for the brief hearing because she had to take her son to the doctor.

Police also suspect that Bligen recruited and abused other children, but they said Friday that no additional youngsters have come forward with similar stories. They said other children might be too scared.

Detective David Wawrzynski said it isn’t unusual for gangs to recruit youths and ask for their help to peddle drugs. But he said there is no evidence that Bligen or any of his victims — including Williams’ son — were involved with gangs.

At the courthouse, Williams spoke while her 10-year-old son stood by her side. He wore a bright red T-shirt and looked down at the floor. His face was pockmarked by scars, and saliva bubbled out of his mouth when he tried to speak.

Williams said her son now sleeps in her bed every night because he’s too scared to sleep alone. She said Bligen routinely choked her son. As a result, he can’t eat or drink, let alone talk.

Williams said Bligen preyed on kids hanging around the apartment complex’s swimming pool this summer.

 At first, the boy told Williams that he had been bruised in neighborhood fights. But when his grandmother saw him, she insisted that they call for help. The boy eventually told police the truth and helped lead them to Bligen, authorities said.

Williams has three other children and is studying culinary arts at the Pinellas Technical Education Center. But she has had to miss classes lately to take her son to the doctor.

They gave him medicine, Williams said, but some of the scars could remain for life.
Williams said Bligen wandered around the neighborhoods near Childs Park mumbling to himself. Bligen’s neighbors said they considered him an oddball.

Bligen has a criminal record in Florida that reaches back more than 20 years and includes several arrests on drug-related charges.

“He was too messed up to get adults,” Williams said. “He targeted kids because he knew he could control them and manipulate them.”

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

[Last modified August 4, 2006, 21:35:21]

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