Hillsborough County mom living in unpowered shed accused of trying to feed baby bleach: HCSO

A Hillsborough County woman is facing child abuse charges after deputies say she tried to give her 13-month-old daughter a bottle that had bleach in it. 

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, on January 2, 2024, a relative of 22-year-old Melissa Barnes contacted authorities and said Barnes, who was living in an unpowered shed with her baby, had given her 13-month-old daughter a bottle containing bleach. 

Deputies say the relative took the child from the cold, cluttered, and unsanitary environment and tried to feed her, but the baby wouldn’t take the bottle. 

While inspecting the bottle, the relative noticed that it contained bleach, according to authorities.

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Deputies say when she was questioned, Barnes claimed to have rinsed the bottle with bleach. 

Melissa Barnes mugshot courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office.

Melissa Barnes mugshot courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. 

The Department of Children and Families removed the baby from Barnes’ care and placed her with a relative. 

Detectives say they found the bleach-based disinfectant and paint inside the shed. They said the contents of the baby bottle were sent to the FBI laboratory to be analyzed, and the tests confirmed the presence of chlorine bleach. 

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"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."

On May 28, 2024, deputies got warrants for Barnes' arrest. 

She was taken into custody by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and will be brought to Hillsborough County later. 

Barnes has been charged with child abuse and child neglect. 

The case is still being investigated. 

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