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Mom Gets Plea Deal in Child’s Death

The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A mother convicted of child neglect after her 13-year-old mentally disabled daughter was found malnourished and covered in lice and crabs will spend 18 years in prison, the Florida Times-Union reports. Jessica Rivera’s daughter died a week after she was removed from the home, where authorities say three siblings lived in similar conditions.  She originally faced manslaughter charges. 

In a separate case, a Sarasota County woman accused of killing her autistic stepdaughter will not face the death penalty, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. The prosecution said in court hearings Tuesday it will not seek the death penalty in the case against Melissa Stoddard, who is accused of repeatedly tying the girl down to a board and gagging her. She has plead not guilty and could face life in prison.

Meanwhile, a report released this week says Florida’s children overall still rank very low in measures of economic well-being, the Gainesville Sun reports. Florida stayed in 38th place for the second year, according to rankings done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Researchers say that while education has improved, there are now more Florida children living in poverty.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.