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Mother Arrested for Giving Baby Bleach

For Immediate Release : Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Release Number: 24-116


Tuesday June 4, 2024 12:54 PM


Mother Arrested for Giving Baby Bleach

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has arrested a mother for giving a relative bleach to feed her 13-month-old baby.

On January 2, 2024, a concerned relative reported that Melissa Barnes, 22, had given her 13-month-old daughter a bottle containing bleach.

The relative discovered Barnes living in an unpowered shed with the child, in an environment described as cold, cluttered, and unsanitary. The relative removed the child and attempted to feed her, but the child refused the bottle. Upon inspection, the relative discovered the bottle contained bleach. When questioned, Barnes claimed to have used bleach to rinse the bottle.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Special Victims Unit detectives conducted a full investigation, and immediately, the Department of Children and Families removed the child from Barnes' care and placed her with a relative.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for the shed, where they located bleach-based disinfectant and paint. The contents of the baby bottle were sent to the FBI laboratory for analysis, confirming the presence of chlorine-based bleach.

Upon those findings, on May 28, 2024, detectives obtained warrants for Barnes' arrest on charges of Child Abuse and Child Neglect. On June 3, 2024, Barnes was taken into custody by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.

"This case is deeply disturbing. No child deserves to be subjected to such dangerous and neglectful conditions," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is committed to protecting our community's most vulnerable, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that those who harm children are held accountable."

Barnes is currently in jail in Highlands County and will be brought to Hillsborough County at a later date. The booking photo provided is from Violation of Parole arrest in January at the start of this investigation.

This case remains active and ongoing. The Public Affairs Office will release any additional details as available.