BROOKSVILLE - A Hernando County Detention Deputy charged with burning a 3-year-old in his care with a hair dryer last week has been fired, Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced Thursday.
Cody Marrone, 21, initially told investigators the boy injured himself. He later said he burned the boy on various body parts, including his genitals, because the toddler would not let him sleep, according to deputies.
Marrone was arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse and child neglect on Friday. He was later released on $20,000 bail.
Nienhuis decided to fire the jail deputy on Tuesday, the sheriff's office said.
"I completely understand the public's anger and frustration regarding this case. I have three daughters myself and cannot fathom how this could occur or what the child's family must be feeling," Nienhuis said in a statement released Thursday morning.
"It would be a huge understatement to say that I, too, am angry and frustrated over these events. It is especially frustrating when one of our employees does something like this, because I know that before we even consider a person for employment, we do a background (check) that is very difficult to pass. It is so difficult, in fact, that most people don't even attempt the application process. Once an application is submitted, a huge number of applicants fail, due to items revealed in the process."
Nienhuis said his "anger and frustration only increased" when he learned more specific details of the abuse, and he vowed to see justice is served in the case.
The alleged abuse was a complete shock to the boy's mother, Meghan Sherron, who had been living in Marrone's home with her son since November, said Sherron's lawyer, Don Pumphrey Jr. of Tallahassee.
Sherron and Marrone met about a year ago, Pumphrey said.
Marrone, who typically worked nights at the jail, would either drive the child to daycare during the day or take care of him while his mother worked at an assisted living facility, Pumphrey said.
The child was released from the hospital on Tuesday, Pumphrey said, adding the boy is "being a trooper" but "still in a lot of pain." As a result of the burns, the child has dressings that need to be changed several times a day.
Pumphrey said Sherron didn't have any idea Marrone would hurt the child, and said he believed Marrone has a young child of his own.
"It's a horrible thing," Pumphrey said. "I can't imagine what would cause someone to do something like that to a defenseless child."
Pumphrey said he's been impressed by Sherron, 21, who is "shaken" by the abuse and hasn't left her son's side since.
Sherron has temporary housing, Pumphrey said, but does not have a permanent place to live with her son, and has had to take time off of work to care for him.
"She's doing everything she can to provide (for him). Any help anyone can give her ... she can use all help she can get," Pumphrey said.
Marrone called Sherron after he was released from jail, crying and telling her he would right the situation, Pumphrey said.
"She's angry," Pumphrey said of Sherron. "She want's justice to be served."
Court records show Marrone is set to be arraigned for the first- and third-degree felony charges on Feb. 4. If convicted of the aggravated child abuse charge, Marrone could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison
A review of Marrone's personnel file shows he was hired as a control room operator in 2012. In July 2013, Marrone was promoted to detention deputy, and his pay jumped from about $21,000 to nearly $40,000
Marrone graduated from Springstead High School in 2011, and later completed his basic recruit training at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
The detention deputy's file did not contain any disciplinary issues or internal investigations. An annual review from July 2013 shows Marrone met the standards expected of him as a control operator.
On his employment application, Marrone wrote he enjoyed working with his little brother's baseball team, and indicated he was involved with the Spring Hill Knights of Columbus.