Caregiver in Disabled Florida Woman’s Pregnancy Case Cleared of Neglect

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Caregiver in Disabled Florida Woman’s Pregnancy Case Cleared of Neglect Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17, 2004

Orlando, FL ( — An elderly woman who was responsible for the care of a mentally disabled woman in the group home she ran will not be convicted of negligent care.

The disabled woman, known as J.D.S. in court records, became the subject of national controversy when Florida Governor Jeb Bush sought to provide a legal guardian to protect the life of her unborn child.

Orange Circuit Judge Stan Strickland dismissed the felony-neglect charge filed against Hester Strong, who ran the home.

"Her actions just were not criminal," Strickland said after Tuesday’s decision, according to an Orlando Sentinel news report. "There’s just no law Hester Strong violated," Strickland said.

Strickland’s decision concerned Patti Jarrell, appointed as JDS’s legal guardian, who said such an incident would likely happen again.

"The state of Florida was the one that was supposed to be protecting these folks, and they failed," she told the Sentinel. "[J.D.S.] hasn’t gotten any justice."

Hester Strong was charged with neglect of a mentally ill person and her state-licensed home has been shut down.

J.D.S. had lived with the Strongs since she was 3 years old. She was five months pregnant before Hester strong notified authorities she was pregnant.

J.D.S. gave birth to the baby in September. Her baby, known only as "Baby S," is also doing very well. She appears to be very healthy, but is undergoing testing to determine if she is mentally disabled as well. She has been adopted by a foster family.

DNA tests proved that Hester’s husband Phillip Strong, impregnated JDS.

According to two court-appointed psychologists, Phillip Strong suffers from dementia and was not capable of understanding either his actions or the court proceedings. He will likely never face trial in the crime.

Following the revelation of J.D.S.’s pregnancy, pro-life groups joined Bush and the head of DCF in advocating for a guardian for the baby. Abortion advocates agreed with a local judge who appointed a guardian for J.D.S., but not for the unborn child.

It was Jarrell that recommended to the court that J.D.S. give birth rather than obtain an abortion, a decision supported by pro-life groups and Governor Bush.

When authorities arrested Strong, he demanded to know why he was being detained. Rick Salcedo, a police detective, told the Associated Press, "We basically said, ‘You’re being charged with rape. We discovered you are the father of the infant.’"

"And he just smiled," Salcedo said.