By PETER BERNARD | WFLA
and ELAINE SILVESTRINI | The Tampa Tribune
CLEARWATER – An 11-year-old girl and her 15-year-old boyfriend tried to kill the girl’s mother Tuesday morning by burning her as she slept, Clearwater police say.
Officials don’t know why yet, although the girl and her mother apparently had argued the night before over whether the girl had taken some of the mother’s cigarettes. Police and child welfare investigators also are reviewing numerous domestic-related calls to the house, including a case seven years ago in which the mother was arrested on child-neglect charges.
The mother, Nancy Broadhead, suffered serious burns and smoke inhalation but escaped alive. Police said the girl and her boyfriend poured gas on Broadhead’s bed and floor and lighted it, then drove off in the mother’s car.
The girl, Samantha Broadhead, and her boyfriend, Jack Ault, were charged with attempted homicide and arson resulting in injury. Ault was also charged with grand theft of Nancy Broadhead’s 2007 Ford Focus.
The girl and her mother argued Monday night, police said.
“It escalated yesterday when the mother confronted the daughter about stealing a few of her cigarettes,” said Elizabeth Watts, a police spokeswoman.
Police said Ault has been arrested seven times since 2003, five times in the past year. No information on the outcomes was immediately available. Watts described the charges as mostly “domestic.” They included domestic-related battery and assaults and violation of probation.
The girl is undergoing psychiatric assessment under the Baker Act. Ault was taken to the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children & Families said the department has an “extensive family history” of cases involving the girl and Ault, but no open cases. She said she could not release any more information. Asked for a number of cases, DCF spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said, “Many.”
Watts said police were called to the Broadhead house seven other times in the past year. The calls involved domestic disturbances, she said.
Nancy Broadhead has been arrested numerous times, according to records with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Among the charges was a 2002 case of child neglect without great harm. Nancy Broadhead pleaded guilty, but adjudication was withheld, according to the records.
Police said the mother was awakened by a smoke alarm about 1:15 a.m. in her home at 1580 Huntington Lane. She was taken to Morton Plant Hospital but was transferred to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital. Although her injuries are serious, they are not considered life-threatening, police said.
On Tuesday afternoon, workers covered most of the roof with blue tarp and boarded the broken windows. Christmas decorations and lights still hung from the house.
Louis Otero, the Broadheads’ next-door neighbor, didn’t want to comment on the arrests, but said, “Me and my wife had to get out of the house because we felt the heat and then we just stepped out and we were shocked to see the fire … so close to us.”
Samantha Broadhead returned to the house later in the day and agreed to go to police headquarters for questioning, police said. Ault was found at a friend’s house and taken into custody.
Nancy Broadhead’s car was found in a church parking lot at 1910 Douglas Ave. in Clearwater.
Ault has a MySpace page in which he says, “me and Samantha are back together.” He describes his mood as “in love.”
Maurice Cheatham, who lives in the same neighborhood as the Ault family, said police have often been to the Ault house.
“The cops stay over there all the time,” Cheatham said.