Kids taken in two incidents

Published February 6, 2007

SPRING HILL - On Friday night, a father took his 5-year-old daughter to a bar and wound up in a knock-down, drag-out fight, wildly swinging a shuffleboard disc wrapped in a blanket.

On Saturday night, a couple left their four kids at home alone as they went to the Saints & Sinners bar. The kids ranged in age from 10 weeks to 4 years old.

In both cases, law enforcement officers decided that parents had crossed the line and committed crimes.

"Endangering a child always evokes strong emotions in the general public," said sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black. "Of course, in law enforcement we have to enforce the laws as they apply."

In the first case, the father was charged with child abuse, among other charges.

In the second case, the parents were charged with child neglect.

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Arlie Halcomb II, 35, went with his live-in girlfriend and his 5-year-old daughter on Friday to the Ramble Inn bar on U.S. 19, just south of the Citrus County line.

He wracked up a bunch of charges that night - child abuse, child neglect, aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic aggravated battery, battery and criminal mischief - but he said during an interview Monday at the Hernando County Jail that they're all "a bunch of B.S."

According to the arrest report, he got to the bar between 2 and 3 p.m. He and his girlfriend left for a few hours, leaving his 5-year-old behind. When he came back, he started the heavy drinking that would eventually get him into trouble.

The arrest report says that a drunken Halcomb tried to leave about 10:30 p.m. with his daughter on his back.

He said he was going to walk up the highway into Citrus County. The bartender and Halcomb's girlfriend tried to stop him.

They took his daughter away from him, but, according to the report, Halcomb came after the bartender and grabbed hold of his daughter by her hair. Shoving followed. Some customers intervened.

That's when Halcomb took a shuffleboard disc, wrapped it in a blanket, and started swinging it wildly, the report said.

Eventually, the bartender handcuffed Halcomb and called the Sheriff's Office.

But Halcomb says the arrest report timeline doesn't make sense - his daughter doesn't get off the school bus until 5:20 p.m., and she was in school that day so she couldn't have been at the bar as early as they say.

Besides, he said, the bar serves chicken fingers, which his daughter loves, and the bar owner has a daughter his daughter's age, so they play together.

The real reason he's in trouble, he said, is that the state of Florida has it out for him.

"The state feels like they screwed up by giving me custody of my daughter," Halcomb said. He pointed to the blue tattoos that cover his entire body. He said they scare off a lot of people.

Authorities turned the 5-year-old over to the custody of an aunt.

Kids, all 4 and under, were left home alone

A night later in Spring Hill, the situation was reversed.

The Sheriff's Office received a call about 1 a.m. Sunday, saying that four kids were home alone and had been medicated with "excessive" amounts of Benadryl.

Deputies found the children sleeping with no adult in sight. Their ages: 10 weeks, 15 months, 3 years and 4 years.

Parents Jeremy Knight, 26, and Nicole Rodriquez, 22, were out for the night at the Saints & Sinners Lounge in Spring Hill. When they returned, deputies were waiting.

Knight said he had hired a baby sitter for the kids, but he only knew her first name, and didn't know where to find her or how to contact her. Rodriquez said the same thing.

The deputies called Spring Hill Fire Rescue, which determined that the kids were fine. The investigating deputy said he wasn't able to determine whether the kids had been medicated, but they did decide that leaving the kids alone constituted felony child neglect.

Both parents were charged with four counts of neglect. They declined to be interviewed in jail.

The Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of the children.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 352 754-6114.