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Couple face charges for allegedly leaving boys alone on New Year's


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[color:purple]Gee, at least they made sure someone looked after their dogs...

Friday, January 6, 2006 - 12:00 AM

Couple face charges for allegedly leaving boys alone on New Year's


By Ryan Huff and Kelli Phillips

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Prosecutors filed felony counts of child endangerment Friday against a San Ramon, Calif., father and his wife accused of leaving his two boys home alone while they spent New Year's weekend in Las Vegas.

Jacob Calero, 39, and Michelle de la Vega, 32, both sniffled during their brief court appearance, where they appeared in jail jumpsuits. At one point, de la Vega, who glanced several times at her family in the front row of the courtroom, appeared to sob.

The couple each face two felony counts of child endangerment after police alerted by the boys' grandmother went to their San Ramon home Saturday night and found Joshua, 10, and his 5-year-old autistic brother, Jason, asleep and alone.

If convicted, the defendants could each face up to 12 years in prison, said Jimmy Lee, Contra Costa Sheriff's spokesman. They remain in custody in lieu of $200,000 bail apiece.

Superior Court Judge Charles Treat denied defense motions to reduce the bail and ordered the couple back to court Jan. 12 to enter pleas.

Deputy District Attorney Jon Yamaguchi argued that the defendants were a flight risk and questioned if they would return to court "given the lack of responsibility they've shown with the children."

Defense attorneys said they wanted bail reduced because their clients have no prior criminal records and the children were not harmed.

"They've never been in custody — they're scared to death," Calero's attorney, Thomas McKenna, said after the hearing. "(Calero) made a major mistake in judgment and we're cooperating. The boys lost their mother to cancer; they don't want to lose their father."

The boys' mother, Maria "Cristina" Calero, died of breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 31. Her mother — the boys' grandmother, Liberata Holden — had been taking care of the children at her Manteca, Calif., home for the past few days. She is trying to gain permanent custody.

On Friday, their godmother, Erin Stoker, watched over them. She declined an interview request.

At the arraignment, a swarm of local and national media greeted Calero and de la Vega as they were let out of a sheriff's van. They refused to answer reporters' questions. De la Vega's mother and other relatives also declined to speak with the media.

Police said the couple departed for Las Vegas on the morning of Dec. 30, leaving the boys with cereal and frozen dinners to eat, and a cell phone number to call in case of emergencies. Meanwhile, the couple arraigned for de la Vega's mother to watch their three dogs — Popo, Pumpkin and Snow White.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

[color:blue](Note: I assume the writer meant "[color:black]arranged for de la Vega's mother to watch their three dogs " and "© 200[color:black]6".)

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Wow, sounds like the grandmother will do anything to get custody.

I'm not very autistic, but me and my brother were left alone all the time at those ages and younger. I'm appalled to think that some people think that's wrong.

Sorry, Todd, but I think the autistic child is the distinguishing factor here; left in the charge of a ten-year-old.

As you may or may not know, "Lassie" used to work with autistic kids, and had to deal with an innumerable list of unbelievable things. A ten-year-old is not equipped for that. Indeed; most adults without specific education are not equipped.

Oh, and for the record, I think it's wrong to leave any ten-year-old responsible for a five-year-old. It is only exponentially worse because the younger child was autistic.

Edited by Guest
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Well, presumably "child endangerment" encompasses a broad range of behaviour. Given that the maximum they're facing is twelve years, that would be for the most egregious example of child endangerment. In all likelihood, this wouldn't be the most extreme example, so their sentence would be lower.

As far as "raping" children, I don't know California penal law, but I suspect that the maximum sentence for child molestation in California is more than twelve years. It sounds like you know otherwise, though?

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