SPRING HILL A 9-year-old boy thought his mother was at work.
He was left at home Wednesday afternoon to take care of his 4-year-old brother and the family dog. The house phone was dead, authorities said.
Deputies said they tried for hours to get a hold of his mother. By 10 p.m., they arrested her on two charges of child neglect.
Erica Anne Sell told deputies she had lied to her oldest son. She went to Busch Gardens with her boyfriend, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
The 28-year-old mother had been making a habit of leaving her children at home alone, deputies said.
During her interview, she told Deputy Gisele Mulverhill she would work four days out of the week and leave her children alone in the house for at least six hours at a time, according to a sheriff's report.
Sell works at a Progressive Insurance call center, deputies said.
Mulverhill said Sell's children would come home from school around 3 p.m. and she wouldn't get home from work until 9 p.m.
The practice had been going on for more than a month, deputies said.
Sell didn't keep the house tidy or safe, according to an arrest affidavit.
Mulverhill said there was standing water on the bathroom floor and animal feces on the floor of one of the bedrooms. The younger boy was running around the house barefoot, she wrote.
While Mulverhill stayed with the children, she saw the older boy use the blender. He told her he had used it several times in the past, according to her report.
A power strip was plugged into an outlet and it was covered by a towel, which could have caused a fire, Mulverhill stated.
There was only one phone in the house and it wasn't working when Mulverhill responded to the house earlier that night. One of the children told her it needed to be charged for at least three hours before it could be used, according to the sheriff's office.
By 9:15 p.m., after the phone was charged, Sell called the house unaware there was law enforcement there, Mulverhill stated.
Sell came home and was interviewed. Mulverhill said Sell told her she wasn't at work like she had told her son, but she had been at Busch Gardens with her boyfriend.
Deputies said they responded Wednesday after a relative called the sheriff's office.
The decision to arrest the children's mother fell on the deputies who responded and investigated, said Lt. Michael Burzumato, a sheriff's spokesman.
"There is no specific law that says what age a child has to be in order to stay home alone," Burzumato said. "This is an issue which varies based upon the maturity level of each child as they grow up. In this case, the evaluation of the responding (deputies) of the children and their maturity level will determine in many cases whether or not charges will be filed."
Sell was jailed on a $4,000 bond.
The Department of Children and Families is investigating.
Burzumato said the boys are staying with a relative.