ST. PETERSBURG — Tasha Trotter frequently visited her 4-year-old son at his grandmother’s home at the Jordan Park Apartments, but she rarely spoke to anyone, neighbors say.
The grandmother told police her 40-year-old daughter was acting erratically Friday and investigators say the younger woman had a history of mental illness.
But Trotter gave no statement after being arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of her child, Joseph Artis, police said.
She was sitting on the front porch when her mother, Carolyn Trotter, 64, arrived with the boy at her home at 2427 13 Avenue S. Friday evening.
After they went inside, police say, Trotter grabbed a knife from the kitchen and went into her son’s room.
The grandmother tried to stop Trotter, but failed to keep her from stabbing the boy multiple times, police say.
A neighbor heard the boy’s grandmother screaming, ran into the apartment and saw the stabbing, investigators say.
The neighbor ran out of the apartment just after 6 p.m. to get help and found two St. Petersburg police officers nearby directing traffic along 22nd Street South.
The officers followed the neighbor to the apartment and saw Trotter walking out of the apartment carrying her son. Joseph was unconscious and had multiple wounds, police say.
Trotter put the boy on the ground and officers administered CPR until paramedics arrived.
Paramedics then took Joseph to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg where he was pronounced dead.
Trotter gave no statement to police and investigators had not identified a motive for the slaying.
Pinellas County records shows Trotter had no prior criminal history.
On Saturday afternoon, neighbors said they were praying for the family and had little explanation for the tragedy that happened the night before.
A man sitting on his front porch who declined to give his full name said he would speak with the grandmother — “Miss Carolyn” — and the boy almost every morning as he was getting ready to take his kids to school.
The grandmother has had custody of Joseph for three years, police say, and many neighbors had seen Tasha Trotter come by at various times.
“She didn’t seem aggressive or violent toward nobody,” said the neighbor, who identified himself as Mr. Lee.
Trotter is the mother of two adult children and a younger child who don’t live in the area, police say.
After the stabbing, police say, the grandmother left her home to stay with relatives.
The St. Petersburg Housing Authority has offered to help her move free of charge, if she wishes, said St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton, who was in Jordan Park on Saturday afternoon.
Newton and Nikki Gaskin-Capehert, a newly appointed liaison for the city’s Midtown neighborhood, are putting together funds to pay for Joseph’s funeral.
“I think this is what the community needs to do; they need wrap their arms around them, keep them held up in prayer and know that God will make a way,” Newton said.
“This is truly tragic.”
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Tribune reporter Jose Patino Girona contributed to this report.