Paul and Belinda Jean Berloni of Sarasota County, Florida were arrested after they allegedly drunkenly tied their granddaughter’s plastic truck to the back of their vehicle and towed her around in it, according to press reports. Paul Berloni, 49, was charged with one count each of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, and child endangerment, while Belinda Jean Berloni was charged with one count of child endangerment. The couple was reportedly booked into the Sarasota County Jail. It is not clear whether either defendant qualified for bail bond or has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
According to media sources, the incident occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. A Sarasota police officer reportedly spotted an SUV driving down Clark Road at approximately 5-10 miles per hour, towing a plastic Hot Wheels car containing a small child in a bathing suit. The girl, 7, whose name has not been released, was reportedly dressed in a bathing suit and was not wearing any protective gear. The officer also reportedly noted that the SUV’s trunk was open and Belinda Jean Berloni was riding in the back, yelling encouragements to the little girl.
Upon approach, the officer reportedly discovered that the toy car had been attached to the SUV using two dog leashes tied to the trailer hitch. The car’s driver, Paul Berloni, allegedly told the officer that he had been drinking and that his license had been revoked. The arrest report mentioned that Berloni had been convicted of three previous instances of driving under the influences, news sources indicate. However, Berloni reportedly refused to submit to a blood alcohol test at the scene, so his blood alcohol content at the time of his arrest is not known.
Belinda Berloni was reportedly also intoxicated, although it is not known whether she submitted to a sobriety test. She allegedly told the arresting officer that they had been towing the girl around in that manner the whole day ‘just for fun,’ although she did mention that she understood that it was dangerous. Media sources quote the arrest report as stating that Paul and Belinda Berloni “failed to provide adequate supervision for the child and put the child in a situation that could have easily resulted in great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement or even death.”
The girl’s father (the Beroli’s son) was reportedly called to the scene to reclaim custody of his daughter before his parents were arrested. Sources indicate that he got into a verbal argument with his mother over the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The girl was unharmed in the incident.
In another recent South Florida child abuse arrest, Christopher Matthew Hackworth of Port Charlotte, Florida was arrested after he allegedly threw his three-year-old son at Crystal Tokarski, the boy’s mother. It is not clear what sort of relationship Hackworth and Tokarski have, although Torkarski reportedly told the press that Hackworth is a great father and that he needs medical attention. “Chris asked for help. He asked for help and none of them would help him,” she is quoted as saying to the media.