The Hallandale Beach parents arrested in the disappearance of their baby boy -- and labeled by authorities as suspects in the boy’s possible death -- will be required to post higher bond amounts before they are freed from jail, a judge ruled Saturday.
Broward Circuit Judge Geoffrey Cohen raised the bond amounts for Calvin Melvin Jr., 27, and Brittney Sierra, 21, during a weekend court hearing on child neglect charges in the disappearance of Dontrell Melvin, who police say was 5 months old when he was last seen around July 2011.
On Saturday, police and forensic anthropologists kept digging for more remains at the property where Melvin and Sierra once lived. Hallandale Beach police on Friday found remains there that they said were consistent with those of an infant. Police said they haven’t determined whether the remains are Dontrell’s.
As police investigated outside the property, a current resident who moved into the home about six months ago said she was allowed to stay inside her residence. Natalie Garrido, 21, described a hectic day Saturday, saying that many police cars remained parked outside.
Saturday afternoon, she said she saw officials setting up additional tents in the backyard and using buckets as they excavated.
"They’re doing a lot of digging back there, for any leftover bones or something," Garrido said. "They added a couple of tents, I guess to protect everything that’s going on."
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In court Saturday, the judge first spoke to Sierra, charged with one count of child neglect.
“The allegations are extremely serious,” the judge told Sierra. “In light of that, I do find it essential to set a very substantial bond to assure her presence at further proceedings.”
Cohen raised Sierra's bond amount to $100,000.
Assistant Public Defender Terry Conover, who represented Sierra on Saturday, said he opposed the increased bond amount, given it was basically unaffordable for Sierra.
“Judge, we object to the amount of the bond being tantamount to no bond,” Conover said. “She has ties to the community. She doesn’t have the funds and she has really virtually no record, so we object.”
Cohen replied, “Your objection is noted,” but he didn’t change his mind on Sierra’s bond being $100,000.
Dontrell’s two siblings recently were placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families. Sierra told the judge she visited the courthouse Thursday and was told she could "have supervision with my kids."
"I was wondering can I also see them while I’m here, or when I get out while I’m on house arrest?" she asked.
The judge told her he wouldn't authorize her request.
Then the judge addressed Melvin, charged with child neglect and obstructing a criminal investigation by providing false statements to police. The judge increased Melvin's bond to $150,000.
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If either Sierra or Melvin were to post their bond amount, each would be freed from jail and placed on house arrest, the judge said.
Each also would be required to wear an electronic-monitoring device as they await their court cases to proceed, the judge said.
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If Sierra does leave jail, she will stay with her mother in Hallandale Beach, the judge said.
Sierra’s mother, who attended the hearing, told Cohen, “She has a place to go. She has family that loves her.” The mother declined to comment after the hearing.
Dontrell’s disappearance didn’t become known to authorities until Wednesday, when a child welfare investigator spoke to Sierra regarding a child neglect case, according to Hallandale Beach police.
The investigator determined that Dontrell was missing. She spoke to his grandparents who said they hadn’t seen the boy in more than a year. The investigator notified police.
After hours of police questioning Thursday, the parents blamed each other in the boy’s disappearance and each provided police an area to search, police said.
Police said Friday that they dug up the remains in the backyard of a home, in the 100 block of Northwest First Avenue in Hallandale Beach. It is reportedly where the couple had lived.
Before the remains were found, Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy said that if evidence warranted further charges, the parents “will be charged accordingly.”
After the remains were unearthed, the chief said the missing-person case had turned into a homicide investigation. He said, “Are the parents suspects? Yes.”