Mother Arrested for Attempting to Poison Toddler with Bleach

A Florida woman, aged 22, has been apprehended after she reportedly handed a relative a bleach-filled bottle, instructing them to feed it to her 13-month-old child. Melissa Elaine Barnes was arrested on Monday, facing charges of child abuse and neglect related to the alleged poisoning attempt.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office issued a detailing the incident. On January 2, 2024, deputies responded to a call from a worried relative who reported that Barnes had attempted to feed her one-year-old daughter bleach. The relative discovered Barnes and the toddler living in a powerless, cluttered, and unsanitary shed, which was described as cold. The relative removed the child from the shed and tried to feed her using a bottle provided by Barnes. However, the child reportedly refused to drink from the bottle.

Upon closer inspection, the relative found that the bottle contained bleach. When confronted, Barnes stated that she had used bleach to clean the bottle. The case was then handed over to detectives from the Sheriff’s Office’s Special Victim’s Unit. The Florida Department of Children and Families swiftly removed the child from Barnes’ custody and placed her with a relative.

During the investigation, authorities executed a search warrant on the shed where Barnes was residing. They found bleach-based disinfectant and paint inside. The baby bottle was sent to an FBI laboratory for analysis, which confirmed the presence of chlorine-based bleach.

Based on the evidence gathered, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Barnes on May 28. She was found and arrested by deputies from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, located approximately 110 miles southeast of Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister expressed his concern over the case, stating, “This case is deeply disturbing. No child deserves to be subjected to such dangerous and neglectful conditions.” He assured that the Sheriff’s Office is committed to protecting the community’s most vulnerable and will work relentlessly to hold those who harm children accountable.

Barnes is currently detained in the Highlands County Jail on an out-of-county warrant, awaiting extradition. Court records show that Barnes was convicted in January 2024 for resisting an officer without violence, a misdemeanor. The Sheriff’s Office has not yet responded to requests for comment but has stated that the investigation into Barnes is still ongoing.