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Mother arrested after toddler drowns in neighbor's goldfish pond

ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- An Escambia County mother is in jail after her 14-month-old daughter was found dead in her next door neighbor's goldfish pond.

It happened at a home on Betmark Road around 5:30 PM Wednesday.

Jennifer Eiland is charged with four counts of child neglect, one for each of she and her husband's surviving children. She's being held in the Escambia County Jail without bond. Investigators say her children had been placed in Foster care before and were returned in recent months.

Larry Kruger, the man who lives next door to Eiland, says he'll never forget what he saw in the pond in his front yard, which is less than two feet deep.

Kruger says he was watching football when the little girl's seven year-old brother came to his door upset.

He said the boy, "Kept tryin' to say somethin' about the fish pond, then I noticed the baby's arm sticking out from underneath the bridge."

Kruger says he immediately rushed over to pull the toddler out.

"Her mother was looking for her," Kruger said, "She was down in the road getting' ready to go over in the field to look. And I hollered at her. I said the baby's up here. When she saw me pull it up outta the water she just went nuts."

Kruger says the child's mother started to perform CPR, something he admits he doesn't know how to do. He says the relative of a neighbor, a registered nurse, came over to help, but it was already too late.

Kruger says another neighbor later told him he thought he saw something in the pond about a half-hour before the toddler was discovered, but that he thought it might have been a child's toy.

Kruger and others in the area say they've seen the toddler and her siblings, all young children, wandering the neighborhood often.

Adam Nelson, who owns property nearby, said, "I come out here eight, nine o'clock at night, come back from the store or somethin', see the kids walkin' up and down the road. My cousins would have to go out there and get the kids and see about takin' 'em back to their parents' house."

"I'm no judge on child abuse or anything," Kruger said, "But they probably run around a bit more than other kids do."

The child's father said he's a merchant marine who just got home after being at sea for two weeks. He is devastated and says his wife had no criminal intent. Their surviving four children are now in Foster care. The case remains under investigation.