Etters said privacy laws prevented her from discussing a specific case, but confirmed that her agency was working with DCF “to help resolve the situation … We want people with developmental disabilities to live in a safe environment.’’
State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, said Floridians like Portugal are forced to endure long waits for services because caring for people with disabilities and mental illness is “not a priority’’ in the Legislature.
“No one really talks about funding,’’ Sobel said. “I think that needs to be part of the conversation.’’
Sobel, disgusted by Portugal’s circumstances, said that “each case is worse than the last. This is just awful and unacceptable in this age of enlightenment.’’
Jaramillo admitted that she kept her son locked in a room that police called “dungeon-like’’ when they arrived on Thursday on an anonymous tip.
Sweetwater police spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree-Garcia said Portugal was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center in the care of DCF staffers Thursday.
She said he sat on a couch next to his mother silently, looking down with his hands in his lap. His room had “no light, no air conditioner, with a rusted iron deadbolt on the outside of the door,’’ she added. “I wouldn’t keep my cats in those conditions.”
She said he looked “very pale and very thin,’’ and that the trailer reeked of human waste.
Hammontree-Garcia said neighbors told police they’d seen Portugal roaming in a diaper, eating dog food and raiding a neighbor’s outdoor freezer for frozen fish.
She said Jaramillo asked police, “ ‘Are you going to help us?’ She looked really worried … and was crying in the jail cell.’’
According to the arrest report, Jaramillo told police she sedated her son and then left him locked in the room to go out with her boyfriend.
It’s not known when Jaramillo came to South Florida or how she supports herself. Public records show she’s been married three times in Miami-Dade, and has an adult daughter, Alexia Portugal, who was deported two years ago. Javier Perez, the father of Alexia’s child, said that in recent years he saw Jaramillo hit Portugal with a kitchen cutting board, and once saw Portugal with a mouthful of excrement.
Lisette Montes de Orca, a spokeswoman for the partnership that owns Li’l Abner park, said she didn’t know the family, and that park personnel have no authority to enter the privately owned homes. She said about 4,000 residents live in trailers on 908 rented lots in the 101-acre park.
“We are very surprised and hurt that someone was living like that in the park.’’
El Nuevo Herald reporter María Pérez contributed to this report.