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Florida parents use Google in attempt to treat meth-positive baby, police say

Police allege parents Nicole Finley, 20, and Bruce Nowlen, 29, never took the child to a hospital until symptoms became extreme.

Editor's note: Some details in this story are disturbing.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A 9-month-old boy who tested positive for meth likely will have to endure several medical procedures in the months ahead because his parents allegedly sought medical advice on Google.

The evidence against parents Nicole Finley, 20, and Bruce Nowlen, 29, is enough to charge them with child neglect, according to a Lakeland Police Department affidavit.

Investigators began their case on Oct. 14 after the child started receiving care at Lakeland Regional Health. The baby, who is not named in the affidavit, had some sort of injury to his leg and tested positive for the drug.

This was roughly four days after symptoms appeared on Oct. 10, police say.

Finley told police she called her pediatrician's office on Oct. 13, seeking advice how to treat what she thought was a bug bite. She was advised to treat it like one would a boil -- elevate the leg, put antibiotic cream on the wound and do not let him touch it.

It seemed OK in the days leading up to Oct. 14, when the leg started to feel "hot" and the redness began to spread. In an effort to try and ease the pain, Finley placed him in the bathtub when "puss began to shoot out...," the affidavit reads.

The leg smelled like "rotten flesh," Finley is said to have told police. She told investigators she experiences "puss bubbles" and knew how to treat them.

After a few Google searches, Finley came to the conclusion that her son was bitten by a brown recluse spider.

During the span of several days, Finley communicated with family on Facebook Messenger to tell them what was happening with the baby.

Lakeland police provided one such account between two concerned cousins, Anna and Penny: "Hey Anna I don't mean to bother u I've been talking here and there with Nicole it's about the baby apparently he got a spider bite went to the hospital sent him home then went back they sent him home again well now his leg is worse and he's running a fever..." the message reads, in part.

Investigators learned the baby had been living with Finley and Nowlen in a Lakeland hotel, still displaced after Hurricane Irma.

When police went to inspect the room on Oct. 16, it was "not safe, or sanitary for a baby" with trash, rotten food and dirty diapers everywhere.

In the department's investigation, there never were phone records nor evidence of any call nor visit a Tampa Bay-area hospital -- the baby did not receive any care until he finally was taken to the hospital, police say.

Nowlen told police he became worried because of the way the baby was crying and breathing, prompting them to go to the hospital.

When Nowlen was being interviewed, he denied using drugs. However, Finley told police the couple previously were under investigation for meth use.

Because "Finley and Nowlen did not seek any medical treatment, there was a substantial risk of death from the infection, as noted by doctors," the affidavit reads.

Finley is in the Polk County Jail while police seek to arrest Nowlen.

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