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Esc. County mother makes court appearance today after child’s drowning
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- An Escambia County mother whose toddler drowned made her first court appearance today. Jennifer Eiland, 31, is facing child neglect charges. She was told not to have contact with her four surviving children and her bond is set at $100,000. Eiland's 14-month-old daughter was found dead in a neighbor's goldfish pond Wednesday night. The Department of Children and Families had investigators in the neighborhood Friday. This is standard protocol whenever a child is found dead.
In the arrest report, three neighbors told deputies they saw Eiland hitting her children using a wooden paddle. They also say they saw the four children running around the neighborhood with barely any clothes on, unsupervised. When a DCF investigator checked on the children after the drowning, the investigator found bruising on the buttocks of one child. Shayne Dunn lives next door to Eiland. He hasn't seen anything that's raised a red flag, but remembers hearing screams coming from inside the home not too long ago.
"And he was saying 'mommy, mommy I'm sorry I won't do that again. It really kinda scared me a little bit," said Dunn.
The incident was unsettling for Dunn, but he left it alone. He was shocked when he heard one of the children drowned.
"I never expected anything like that to happen in my neighborhood," he said.
In the arrest report, the deputy describes the conditions inside the home as unsanitary: with food on the walls, no sheets on the beds and bugs crawling in the kitchen. During an interview at the Sheriff's Office, Eiland admitted she didn't keep the home as clean as it should be. She also admitted to using the wooden paddle on her children, but stressed to deputies, she would not spank them hard. The 14-month-old girl was found dead in Larry Kruger's gold fish pond, the water just two feet deep. Although Kruger doesn't know Eiland too well, he doesnt think the children were being mistreated.
"The kids were very active, running around, but I never saw anything like child abuse," he said.
Kruger told us he spoke with Eiland's husband, who told him she's not the monster everyone seems to think she is. We reached out to Eiland's family, but they did not want to talk to us.
"He lost his daughter and his wife's incarcerated. It's just a really hard time for him," he said.
Eiland was previously arrested for child neglect in Orange Beach earlier this year. Her children were placed in foster care for two months. They were returned to her this June and she was placed on probation.