After a year’s long court battle to get temporary custody of her child from extended family, a process that required three separate petitions, 32-year-old Melissa Lazerte surrendered her child to Department of Children and Families again after they were called to the drug house where Lazerte was located on Wednesday.
An overpaid civilian subcontract employee, hired by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office after he retired, told local media that detectives arrested four suspected meth dealers and found the child inside what investigators say has been used as a drug house for years.
After waiting over a month to investigate complaints of illicit drug sales, sheriff’s detectives searched the home at 325 Chapel Road in St. Augustine on Wednesday; only to find a young child living inside under “unsatisfactory” conditions.
Historic City News learned that 35-year-old Donald Burton Blount, 46-year-old Kristi Marie Kennington, 43-year-old Richard Rogero, and Lazerte were at the residence at the time deputies arrived. All four adults were booked into the St. Johns County Jail on charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.
A fifth person, 25-year-old Kelley Kathleen Eplin, was arrested on a single charge of marijuana possession, deputies said. She remains in custody in lieu of $1,000 bond. Blount is being held in lieu of $21,500 bond, Kennington $51,500 bond. Rogero’s status is unknown at press time.
Lazerte, the mother of the child, was also charged with child neglect without bodily harm. According to the arrest report, her child was found within reach of drug paraphernalia, and drugs were scattered throughout the home. The arrest report states 52 grams of liquid meth, glass pipes, hypodermic needles and scales were among the items found.
“I mean, who knows if that child could have gotten ahold of those drugs. That’s bad,” said a neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous. “Even with selling drugs, you’re putting kids in danger.”
According to court records, Lazerte petitioned for child support in 2016 and, last year, she was granted temporary custody. She remains in custody in lieu of $35,500 bond. Not the mother of the year.
Deputies told television reporters on the scene that they have been to the house several times in the past. In June, deputies said, they responded to a death inside. Paramedics used Narcan but were unable to revive the patient. They also responded to a drug overdose at the house in September, but in that case, CPR and Narcan saved the person’s life.