- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) Guilt hangs over neighbors who say 2-year-old Alfredo Montes had always been neglected.
The man accused of killing the boy has been arrested, but residents along a street just outside Winter Haven say they always worried when the toddler and his 4-year-old sister were handed to friends, family even near-strangers so their mother could party for days and weeks on end.
They say they told authorities and prayed the children would survive.
"Maybe if we'd have got involved more, we could've prevented this," said next-door neighbor Billy Bishop. "That's what I've been thinking about all day."
On July 1, police say, while Alfredo and his sister, Rheyna, were being cared for in nearby Auburndale by Richard Chouquer and Amandy Lawrence, Mr. Chouquer punched Alfredo at least five times in the face for soiling his pants.
The boy's body was found Thursday along Interstate 275, wrapped in a bedspread decorated with figures from Disney's "101 Dalmatians."
Mr. Chouquer, 23, and Miss Lawrence, 22, were arrested Thursday in Utah. They waived extradition and were being returned to Florida to face charges in the toddler's death, Carrie Rodgers, a Polk County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said yesterday.
Relatives of the boy's father say they repeatedly called the Department of Children & Families to tell them the mother, Jeanna Lynn Swallows, was not taking good care of the children to no avail.
"I can't say that they didn't care, they just didn't investigate fully and probably wrote it off," said Claudia Montes, Alfredo's aunt.
On Friday, a state child welfare investigator was fired and became the first person charged with falsifying records under a new state law. Police said there was no way Erica Jones could have seen the children July 1, the day she wrote in a report that Alfredo had "no marks or bruises. Child was clean and appeared happy."
Police said Miss Swallows left the children in the care of Mr. Chouquer and Miss Lawrence a few days before, claiming she was going to look for a job.
Miss Swallows was arrested Tuesday on a violation-of-probation warrant on suspicion of writing worthless checks. She remained in custody yesterday without bail, Miss Rodgers said. Jail officials said her next court date had not been scheduled, and it could not be immediately determined whether she had obtained an attorney.
Roxanne Bishop, Billy Bishop's daughter-in-law and next-door neighbor, said she often saw Alfredo and his sister wearing the same clothes for three or four days at a time. The Bishops also said there was a constant stream of cars arriving at the house with music blaring, and prostitutes trading sex for drugs.
They said the Polk County Sheriff's Office was repeatedly told of the activity. "They just said they had it under surveillance," said Sonny Bishop, Billy Bishop's son.
Miss Rodgers said incident reports on the address were not immediately available.

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