Neighbors provide details about the life of neglect faced by boy who went missing over Christmas weekend

Stephens had not been in school since the 2nd grade and police say he did not know how to read or write
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 3:59 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Details about the life of 13-year-old Ean Stephens are bringing clarity to the situation that led to him wanting to run away from home.

He was taken from his home with his grandparents, Jamie and Tommy Stephens, by an alleged drug dealer named Tiffany Mejia.

Neighbors of Stephens at Oak Glade Apartments say it was clear the child did not have a lot of guidance.

“I just know he used to be out late at night time. I just always wanted to know why a child be out so late...Him being on his bike and it used to be like 10,” said Kimberly Tate.

“Yeah, late at night. Like 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock. It was the norm for him to be out that late,” said Priscilla Davis. “He would take a stick literally and you could hear him in the house just banging on the trees.”

Tate said he colored on her walls once and Davis said she sometimes had to tell Stephens not to do things because he was not receiving guidance at home.

Both agreed the child just did not know any better.

“Kid just being a kid,” said Tate. “I didn’t go to the office or say anything to anyone.”

“But I got on him the next day when I seen him,” said Davis. “I did. I told him ‘don’t be drawing on people’s stuff cause your parents gonna be responsible for everything you tell them.’”

One of the police reports from the three arrests made in the case stated Stephens did not know how to read or write.

He had not been in school since the second grade and police say he had befriended convicted felons and dangerous criminals.

Police also said Ean did not know what city he lived in.

He slept on a mattress on the floor and only had a few items of clothing.

Neighbors say they were shocked to find out about the conditions he was living in.

“Even though he was doing what he was doing, it’s just the fact that a child shouldn’t have to go through that,” said Tate.

“I do feel kind of a responsibility because I should have gone to his parents and complained about all the stuff he did,” said Davis. “I don’t know if it would have made any difference, but still I should have went to them instead of getting on him all the time.

As of now police say the boy is safe and he is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

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