The Sarasota County Sheriffs Office has arrested the stepmother of an 11-year-old girl who died Monday and charged her with aggravated child abuse.
Misty Stoddard, 35, is being held without bond on a charge of aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm, the same charge facing her husband, Ken Stoddard who was arrested earlier this week, according to a news release.
The medical examiner determined Melissa Stoddard died from hypoxia, which is caused by oxygen deprivation. Doctors who tried to treat her when she was hospitalized Dec. 12 found she had severe brain damage, ligature marks and lacerations on several parts of her body, according to the sheriff's office.
According to the sheriff's office, Ken Stoddard "described how he and Misty 'restrained' Melissa, who has autism, and claimed it was to protect her from hurting herself or her siblings. Other children in the home explained that Melissa was frequently tied up and her mouth was covered with tape to keep her quiet," the release states.
A total of five children taken from the home are in protective custody with the Department of Children and Families.