Children left with no food in home, without power

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ultimately, Lewisburg City Judge Roger Brandon's discretion could provide a turning point for Laura Aviles.

The 29-year-old mother of three is charged with child neglect because, according to City Police Office John Christmas' report, among other circumstances, she went to work and left her 13-year-old daughter to take care of her six-year-old daughter.

A third child, reportedly age three, was with the father on Tuesday.

Police responded to an anonymous call just before 2 p.m. It was 98 degrees outside the apartment on Fourth Avenue. The older sister told Christmas that power for the residence was cut off for non-payment of the electric bill, but the officer saw that a floor fan was cooling the home.

"The neighbor was allowing them to use an electric cord that was plugged into his home to run the fan to keep cool," Christmas said he learned from the 13-year-old.

"After further investigation, I learned that they didn't have any food," Christmas said. The child told him "the neighbor gave them some food, but she gave it to her sister."

Christmas then "decided that the living conditions were unsafe" since it seemed clear the 13-year-old hadn't eaten that day, police records show. So, the officer asked his dispatcher "to contact the Ministry Service and have them approve two meals."

Police Lt. Rebekah Mitchell went to a fast food restaurant and bought food for the girls, according to Christmas' report.

Police Chief Chuck Forbis said, "The safety and welfare of the children has to be the bottom line" for public officials such as a policeman when they encounter circumstances that lead to charges.

"The judge has to weigh all the factors on whether there was neglect," Forbis said.

During a Wednesday morning interview, the chief indicated that the 13-year-old girl demonstrated some responsibility; "Just by her actions ... when the neighbor gave her food, the 13-year-old gave it to the younger sibling."

Christmas' report shows that the older girl explained they were alone because their mother went to work at 4 a.m. and didn't get off until 3 p.m. The older girl sent a text message to her mother to say a policeman was at their home. Christmas asked her to tell the mother they'd be at police headquarters.

The Department of Children's Services was called and sent a worker. The DCS worker spoke with the mother and her daughters and released the children to Aviles' father, Thomas Agent of Columbia.

Aviles' bond on two counts of child neglect was set at $500. She's scheduled to appear before Judge Brandon at 2 p.m. Aug. 9, in Lewisburg City Court.