Parents shocked after baby found dead in freezer of teacher's aide
PORT CHARLOTTE - A shell shocked community is still reeling from the discovery of a dead baby in the freezer of a Charlotte County teacher's aide.
"I don't like that considering she works with kids all the time," said parent Rachel Nolan-Trefz. "I don't like to hear that at all."
Investigators haven't confirmed whether Jessica Smallwood, 27, is the baby's mother. But they do confirm her words led them to find the baby in her freezer.
Smallwood works with pre-schoolers at Peace River Elementary where a parents waited to pick up their kids Wednesday. None of the parents Fox 4 spoke to heard what happened.
"That's pretty screwed up for sure," one parent said, not wanting to give her name.
"I didn't expect nothing like that. Not around here," said parent Chris Morgret. "Especially at this school where my daughter goes."
On Sunday, Smallwood was taken to the hospital for bleeding. Hospital staff gave police information leading them to return to her home the next day - and that's when they made the disturbing find.
"The house was searched," said Punta Gorda Police spokesperson Christy Arnold. "And a dead infant was found inside."
Crime scene tape, inches away from children's toys, surrounds Smallwood's home. Police are now waiting for autopsy results to come back to see if charges can be filed.
"It's almost beyond comprehension it really is," said Charlotte County School District spokesperson Mike Riley. "It's just tragic."
Riley says teachers were notified at a staff meeting and many are still in shock.
"They're just questioning why," said Riley. "What would lead to something like this?"
The district says Smallwood's status depends on the outcome of a police investigation.
"We're on a wait-and-see," said Riley, "as to what the Punta Gorda Police decide to do."
DCF confirms Smallwood has three children who are now in state custody.
"We have received prior reports related to this family over the past several years," said DCF spokesperson Terri Durdaller. "Although neither of those reports involved an allegation of physical violence."
Smallwood has not been charged with any crime at this point.