DCF Press Release


State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Charlie Crist
Governor

Robert A. Butterworth
Secretary


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Tim Bottcher
November 20, 2007 (352) 303-0255

Department of Children and Families Honors Heroes in Kissimmee Child Abuse Case

ORLANDO - The Department of Children and Families today honored three employees of Kissimmee's Westgate Resorts for their quick action earlier this month which likely saved the life of a severely abused young boy. Department Deputy Secretary Don Winstead presented the employees with plaques recognizing them for their roles in the case. The trio worked together to care for the child while notifying law enforcement.

On November 6, Westgate employees found the seven-year-old boy wandering in a Westgate parking lot disoriented and with visible injuries. He was also severely underweight at 37 pounds. After speaking with the boy, Westgate employees notified the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. The child had been left in a vehicle by two adults who arrived a short time later looking for him.

"We believe the actions of these three individuals saved this child's life," said Winstead. "I applaud them for recognizing the signs of physical abuse and immediately notifying law enforcement. They're heroes. Without their quick response who knows where this little boy would be today."

"The Westgate Resorts family is proud of our team members who helped save this child's life," Westgate Resorts President and Chief Executive Officer David Siegel said. "Due to their courageous and decisive actions, a tragedy was averted. We are also proud that the Westgate Resorts Foundation is available to help this child in his time of need."

On November 7, a court ordered the boy into the care of Children and Families. On November 13, Baker County Sheriff's deputies apprehended 45-year-old Suzette Stevenson and 26-year-old Jamie Martin and charged them with aggravated child abuse. The women are in custody at the Baker County jail.

The young boy is recovering from malnourishment and injuries that include lacerations, burns and head trauma. In an interview with Department child abuse investigators the boy described his arms being tied to a wall at the women's home in Baker County.

Deputy Secretary Winstead awarded plaques to the following Westgate personnel:
  • Hilda Barrios, a Westgate Administrative Assistant who found the child.
  • Steve Siegel, Westgate's Vice President of Sales, who flagged down a security officer and coordinated Westgate's response in the case.
  • Humberto Garcia, a security officer who notified the Sheriff's Office.
Winstead also presented a plaque to the Westgate Resorts organization as a whole to thank the company for its compassion and good citizenship.

Westgate employees are collecting clothes and other items to present to the boy and are planning some activities for him once he is fully recovered. Baker County Sheriff's deputies say area schoolchildren are collecting items for their own care package for this courageous young man.


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