72ºF

Stepmom was drinking before firework injured child, deputies say

Woman faces arson, child neglect charges

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A woman was drinking when she lit fireworks in a vehicle with her two stepsons, ultimately causing a fire that left one of the boys permanently disfigured, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said the fire, which destroyed a vehicle and a trailer, happened Halloween night.

Tiffany Harrod, 36, had been at a party with her husband and two stepsons, ages 5 and 8, then came home and was supposed to be getting the children ready for bed but instead, got them out of bed and asked them to shoot off fireworks with her, records show.

One of the boys said Harrod had been drinking Crown Royal and she wanted more alcohol, but she left the bottle at the party, according to the affidavit.

Harrod lit a firework on the porch and the debris rained down on her and the children, authorities said. She wanted to drive back to the party but didn’t have the keys to the vehicle, so instead she tried to start the vehicle with a quarter, records show.

Deputies said Harrod sat in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, the 8-year-old boy sat in the front seat and the 5-year-old boy sat in the backseat then Harrod lit a mortar-style firework and pointed it toward the open passenger side door.

The firework fell on the floorboard of the vehicle after it was lit and when the boy tried to grab the firework to throw it outside, it exploded in his hand, according to authorities.

The boy said he lost consciousness after the explosion and when he woke up, the vehicle was on fire and Harrod and his brother were on the porch, records show.

Deputies said the two boys and Harrod ran inside and Harrod tried to clean the blood off the 8-year-old boy’s hand. The two children took off their blood-covered clothes and grabbed towels to cover themselves with then ran outside through the back door as the home caught fire, according to the affidavit.

A neighbor who saw the flames called 911 and tried to help the boy.

Harrod, who was holding her stepdaughter, fell while leaving the home and remained on the ground until first responders arrived, records show.

Doctors said they had to amputate the boy’s index, middle and ring fingers and it’s possible that his pinky will need to be amputated in the future. The 5-year-old boy suffered temporary hearing loss and Harrod was treated for burns to her hand, the report said.

During an interview, deputies said Harrod admitted to drinking before the incident but denied being drunk even though she smelled of alcohol and her eyes were bloodshot.

She fluctuated between feeling angry, guilty and crying as she spoke with investigators, according to authorities.

Deputies said Tuesday that Harrod was wanted on charges of throwing a destructive device with bodily harm, arson of conveyance, arson resulting in injury to another and neglect of a child. She was booked into the Orange County Jail early Wednesday morning.

Harrod cried and wiped away tears Wednesday afternoon as she faced a judge hours after she turned herself in.

The judge granted her a total bond of $23,000 for all the charges. Harrod was ordered to not have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18 and not to be in possession of any weapons, ammunition or incendiary devices.

Harrod posted bail Wednesday evening and had no comment for reporters outside the Orange County Jail.

Neighbors on Wednesday reacted to her arrest.

“It was poor, poor judgement and a horrible accident that, in hindsight, I’m sure she is wishing she didn’t make those choices,” Janice Dellarocco said. “It’s just really unfortunate, especially for this little boy who has to live, with a lapse in judgement, now he has to live with this is whole life.”

The family set up a GoFundMe page after the incident. On Tuesday, the creator of the fundraiser posted any money raised will not go to court fees.

“With recent events concerning Tiffany and formal charges I want to put an update here for all to see and read. No money has or will be used for court fines or attorneys. Please understand our main focus has always and will remain the well being of the children involved here. Thank you,” a post on the page read.


About the Author: