Teacher arrested after 4-year-old found alone in street

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A fourth-grade teacher in Polk County was arrested Saturday, accused of child neglect and marijuana possession.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said deputies arrested Marsha Dolce, 26, a teacher at Laurel Elementary in Poinciana. She was taken into custody after a 4-year-old in her custody was found wandering alone outside of her home in Davenport.

According to the affidavit, deputies responded to the apartment complex on Village Way at about 6:50 a.m., because the boy was crying outside, asking for help, and wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. 

Dolce returned home about 7:51 a.m., and she told deputies that she left the house just before seven to help a friend whose car broke down, the report said.

During a search of the home, deputies discovered marijuana in a grinding device on the kitchen counter. A search through her cell phone revealed a text message sent to her at 2:32 a.m. that gave an address in the Jan Phyl Village area of Winter Haven, and a text from Dolce’s phone at 3:21 a.m. that said, “I’m here.” 

After confronting Dolce about her text messages, she admitted to deputies that she made the story up about helping a friend with a broken-down car, the affidavit said. She told them that she wanted to get some marijuana, and the 4 year-old boy was asleep, so she assumed she could go to Winter Haven quickly to meet a friend named Dre and get some from him. She said that she and Dre returned to her home, had consensual sex, and she took him back to Winter Haven. 

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) was contacted, and the child was removed from the home, and Dolce’s custody.

“This is not what we expect from a person in a position of public trust. She left her 4-year-old home alone to go find some marijuana. To think about this poor scared child crying in the street not knowing where mom was-it is just a shame and should not have happened.” sheriff Grady Judd said.

Dolce was arrested and charged with Negligent Child Abuse without great bodily harm, Possession of Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and transported to the Polk County Jail. She has no prior criminal history.

Dolce was employed by the Polk County School Board for approximately three months. She was hired Jan. 18, 2018 at an annual salary of $41,571. She has no past disciplinary action in her file.

Polk County Public Schools is moving forward wth her termination.

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