Baby Penelope to stay in state custody

Mother Jessica McCreery not facing charges in case, attorney says

Jessica McCreery, Penelope Hogarth.
Jessica McCreery, Penelope Hogarth.

SANFORD, Fla. – A judge on Tuesday ruled that Baby Penelope, a 7-month-old girl recently taken out of state by her mother after authorities performed a well-being check, will remain in state custody.

Doctors determined that Penelope was underweight and malnourished after an investigation was launched into the whereabouts of her and her mother last week. 

Penelope's parents, Jessica McCreery, 21, and David Hogarth, 46, will be allowed to have supervised visits, although the judge said hospital officials will have the ability to terminate the visits, if necessary.

The judge also ruled that McCreery and Hogarth will need to undergo DNA and random drug testing.

The judge said breast feeding for Penelope will resume when medical professionals deem it appropriate. 

Attorney Mark O'Mara said Penelope was found to be undernourished but had no other medical concerns.

Over the weekend, McCreery returned to Central Florida with her daughter. Since then, she has been able to stay with Penelope while the baby receives the medical care she needs.

"We agree that there should be continued assistance on behalf of the baby, and we are working together with those involved to assess the baby's medical status and how to best support her needs," O'Mara said before the hearing.

According to O'Mara, McCreery is not facing any charges.

"We are working together with SCSO Child Protective Services towards a solution that will keep (the) mother and child together," O'Mara said. "We appreciate all the concern and outpouring of support for baby Penelope and Jessica during this very trying time, and ask that you please continue to keep them in your prayers as we move forward."

David Hogarth, Jessica McCreery and Mark O'Mara.
David Hogarth, Jessica McCreery and Mark O'Mara.

Police issued a statewide search and alerted authorities outside of Florida to help track down McCreery and Penelope after they said McCreery refused to take her daughter to see a doctor. That came after police said CPS reviewed pictures that showed signs of the child being malnourished and needing medical attention.

O'Mara on Thursday provided a photo to police that showed McCreery and Penelope holding a sign with Thursday's date.

Asked if police believed that the photographs were legitimate, O'Mara said, "Absolutely. I don't think they have any concerns that those photos were not taken (Thursday)."

The case began May 5 when Child Protective Services first visited the family's home in Altamonte Springs after an anonymous caller indicated that Penelope might not be properly cared for.

Altamonte Springs police said Penelope was not born in a hospital, and authorities don't believe that she's ever been checked by a medical professional. CPS investigators said the child was underweight, and they told McCreery to seek medical attention for the child.

When CPS investigators returned to the home Tuesday for a checkup on Penelope, they discovered that the mother and daughter were not only gone, but there were no signs that a baby ever lived there.

Instead, investigators said they found marijuana plants growing inside, and they arrested Penelope's father, David Hogarth. He was taken into custody on drug and child neglect charges.  Police said David Hogarth refused to say where McCreery and the baby were.

Hogarth bonded out of jail and later retained O'Mara.

Watch Local 6 News and stay with ClickOrlando.com for updates on this developing story.

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