MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – A 41-year-old woman was arrested and accused for sexual battery on a minor and child abuse Friday, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
Jennifer Renee Franklin of Key Largo was charged with sexual battery by a person older than 18, in which the victim was under 12, and cruelty toward a child, deputies said.
“This is a sad and disturbing case, but thanks to the willingness of a community member to get involved, the courage of the victim, and the cooperation with our partners in law enforcement, the child is now safe and the suspects will face justice,” Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.
The case began on Monday when Randell John Howell, 36, was charged with child abuse after it was learned he punched, kicked and beat an 11-year-old boy with a belt, according to deputies.
A woman renting a vacation residence nearby called the Sheriff’s Office when the boy stated he was afraid to go home due to the beatings, deputies said.
The boy told investigators, who found bruises on his body as well as scrapes on his knees and hands, that he was afraid of Howell and Franklin, according to deputies.
The boy stated that Franklin often laughed when Howell beat him, and that he wasn’t allowed to eat breakfast or lunch, only dinner, deputies said.
The boy also described punishments such as cleaning the toilet with his personal toothbrush. Howell was arrested, but the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Family Services continued to investigate the case, according to deputies.
On Wednesday, detectives spoke to counselors who have been talking with the boy.
They told the Sheriff’s Office that during those talks, the boy stated, that, three weeks ago, Franklin forced him to perform a graphic sexual act upon her using terminology he didn’t understand.
She also ordered him to masturbate, but he didn’t understand her directions and ran to his room shortly thereafter, deputies said. The victim told counselors that Franklin told him to never tell anyone what happened, according to deputies.
MCSO detectives and DCF investigators determined that the boy has been sexually abused and neglected by Franklin as well as physically abused by Howell.
Franklin remained in jail Friday on $800,000 bail, while Howell was released from jail on Thursday after posting $25,000 bail, deputies said.
The boy remains in the care of DCF.