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Santa Ana mom arrested, accused of starving 4-year-old daughter

July 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A child-abuse investigation is underway in Orange County after a 4-year-old girl was dropped off at a hospital starving and severely underweight. Authorities have arrested the child's mother.

Police allege Antonia Benitez, 35, abused her 4-year-old daughter, starving her at their home in Santa Ana. The alleged abuse was discovered when Benitez dropped the girl off at a hospital last month.

"She has lesions on her legs, open sores, and she at that time weighed 17 to 18 pounds, which, for her age, is less than half of what she should have been," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna with the Santa Ana Police Department.

Police said they then went to the home after doctors contacted social services. Officers found eight other kids, the oldest being 16. According to investigators, none of the other children had signs of abuse. They said they don't know why Benitez allegedly failed to care for her youngest.

"It's just outrageous. Why the little kids? They don't know nothing. They're little kids," said neighbor Richard Magdaleno.

Some neighbors say the family has lived in the home for several years, but over the past year, they had not seen the little girl playing outside. Neighbor Guadalupe Marquez said she hasn't seen anyone in the home for a long time.

Police say all nine children are now in protective custody. The 4-year-old is undergoing skin grafts on her legs due to the damage caused by the open wounds.

Benitez faces felony charges including child abuse. She is expected to make her first court appearance on Friday.

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