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Man recalls confrontation, coming to baby’s aid

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Published:   |   Updated: December 10, 2013 at 01:23 PM

ST. PETERSBURG — The way Frederick Brown tells it, there was just something a little odd about the way a woman was taking a child out of a stroller Sunday afternoon.

Brown, who was riding a scooter at the time, made a U-turn to take another look. But by then, he said, the woman had stopped whatever it was she was doing, acting as if nothing were wrong. Brown decided to continue homeward.

As the 20-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts worker pulled into his driveway, he decided to go back and investigate the matter further.

That’s when he saw the woman, later identified as Odette Cleveland, 52, assaulting the 1-year-old girl, police said. There was red on the child’s lip that, at first, Brown thought was a cherry Popsicle. Then, he said, he realized it was blood.

Brown confronted Cleveland, separated the child from her, and then chased Cleveland as the woman fled, he said.

Cleveland, who lives in Clearwater and who is the child’s aunt, was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse. Police said she punched the child in the face 10 times and violently shook her. Cleveland was being held at the Pinellas County Jail on $20,000 bail.

“Something like the Holy Ghost told me to go back and save the baby,” Brown said.

The child had a small laceration on her lower lip, another on her face near her left eye, and a third on her chest, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz. The child was taken to All Children’s Hospital, but was expected to be OK, Puetz said.

The 1-year-old’s mother had dropped the girl off at the girl’s grandmother’s house at 301 39th St. N., Puetz said. There, Cleveland asked the grandmother if she could take the child to a nearby park, and the grandmother consented, Puetz said.

Cleveland put the child in a stroller and they went on their way, Puetz said. Brown first spotted them in the vicinity of Fairfield Avenue South and 37th Street, the spokesman said.

When Brown returned from his home, to get another look at the woman and child, he rode his scooter past them, got off the scooter and spied on them from behind a tree, he said.

“The baby was screaming and hollering like someone was trying to kill her,” he said.

“I got pissed off about it,” he said.

He confronted Cleveland, and the two scuffled, Brown said. Cleveland bolted, and Brown asked a nearby couple with their daughter if they could look after the girl while he chased and detained Cleveland until police arrived.

“I just feel like an angel for doing that,” Brown said.

Cleveland, of 5726 126th Ave. N., claimed the child hurt herself, Puetz said.

sthompson@tampatrib.com.

(727) 215-6504.

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