DOCUMENT: Florida, Stupid, Crime

Cops: Girl's Kin Towed Her Toy Car Behind SUV

Drunken Florida grandparents busted for child cruelty

Hot Wheels Car

View Document

Hot Wheels Ride

APRIL 30--The grandparents of a seven-year-old Florida girl were arrested yesterday after they allegedly got drunk and used their SUV to tow the child while she was seated in a plastic Hot Wheels car.

Paul Berloni, 49, and Belinda Jean Berloni, 47, were busted Sunday afternoon after a sheriff’s deputy spotted them pulling the girl’s toy car, which was attached to the SUV by a pair of dog leashes. The child, who was not injured, was only wearing a swimsuit “and had no protective gear on whatsoever,” according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report.

A deputy estimated that the Hot Wheels car was traveling between 5-10 miles per hour when a traffic stop was executed. Paul Berloni, who was driving the SUV, reeked of booze, had watery and bloodshot eyes, and his speech was “slowed and slurred.” When asked for his driver’s license, Berloni said that it was “revoked for 10 years for a DUI.”

The above police photo (click to enlarge) shows the Hot Wheels car--resembling a Pontiac Solstice--tethered to the SUV. A second image shows the toy car and the SUV from behind.

Belinda Berloni was riding in the vehicle’s cargo area “with the rear hatch open cheering the child on as she was being pulled behind the vehicle.” Berloni--who a deputy noted was also drunk--stated that “it was dangerous to drag a child behind the vehicle,” but that “they were just having fun and had been doing this all day.”

The Berlonis “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.” As such, the couple (pictured in the adjacent mug shots) was each charged with child cruelty. Paul Berloni was also hit with drunk driving and driving with a suspended license counts.

When the child’s father, Justin Oetting, arrived at the scene, he became very upset at his mother, a deputy noted. He asked Belinda Berloni, “Are you fucking stupid you should know better.” The girl was placed in Oetting’s custody.

The Berlonis are being held in the Sarasota County jail, where bond has not been set on the felony cruelty toward child count. (2 pages)