Several people arrested after burglary investigation leads deputies on a search for a toddler

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Several people are behind bars on burglary and child abuse charges after a recent investigation in Bay County.

Bay County Sheriff's Deputies say Tuesday they responded to a burglary at the EZ In Storage on South Tyndall Parkway. Investigators got video showing the suspects enter multiple storage units and taking stuff from inside. They also saw a 4-year-old child with the suspects in the video.

The next day, investigators were able to identify Benjamin Byrd, Melissa Compton, and Ashley Phillips as suspects in the video. Deputies say Byrd had been arrested that morning in connection to a violation of probation warrant out of Alabama. They say Compton was found on Harrison Avenue. Deputies say Byrd and Compton confessed to burglarizing the storage units.

Byrd was charged with burglary, petit theft, and violation of probation. Compton was charged with burglary, petit theft, possession of paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, and violation of probation.

They say they found out Phillips was living in an abandoned home with no water or power with her 4-year-old son. Investigators found the home, but Phillips and the child were not there. They say the house was in a deplorable condition. Investigators say they were worried about the child.

Phillips was found and arrested Wednesday night, but her child was not with her. Deputies say Phillips told them the child was with his father, Darius Travis. During an interview, deputies say Phillips confessed to living in the abandoned home with her son and that she would use meth on a regular basis while caring for her son.

Investigators found Travis had active warrants.

Deputies say they started searching for the child to make sure he was safe. They say they found the child at Travis' home on Cherry Street in Panama City. They say John Demaline, Sherry Honea, and Tron Triplett were also in the home. When investigators arrived, they arrested Travis on his outstanding warrants.

Deputies say while checking on the child, they found a syringe laying in plain view on the table next to where the child was sleeping. When they spoke with Demaline, he admitted to smoking meth with Triplett and Travis right before investigators arrived. They say Travis also admitted to smoking meth with Demaline and Triplett close to where the child was sleeping.

Investigators say they were given consent to search the apartment for more contraband. They say this is when Sherry Honea was found in the bathroom of the apartment. Deputies continued to search the apartment and say they found many used syringes in a bag on the couch within reach of the child. They say another large quantity of syringes were found in a nightstand next to where the child was sleeping. They say they found a burnt glass pipe under the couch and several syringes, including loaded ones, in the bathroom.

Travis was arrested on his outstanding warrants and charged with child abuse due to smoking methamphetamine with the child present. Triplett and Demaline were also arrested and charged with Child abuse. Honea was found to have outstanding warrants and was arrested and also charged with possession of paraphernalia.

Deputies say the Department of Children and Families came to the scene and took custody of the child.

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L to R: Melissa Compton, Benjamin Byrd, Ashley Phillips, Darius Travis (WJHG/WECP)
L to R: John Demaline, Sherry Honea, and Tron Triplett (WJHG/WECP)