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Mother chained up son to keep him off the street, police say

A mother of three was arrested after officers said they found her 10-year-old son chained by the ankles and crying in a Santa Ana apartment building courtyard.

Two women who were out for a walk told police they saw the boy Thursday and stopped to ask him what had happened.

The boy, who had apparently escaped from his home, said that his mother had locked the aluminum chain around him, said police department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Authorities, who went to check on the child about noon Thursday in the 700 block of South Lyon Street, said they found him lying in the courtyard of an apartment complex with his bound legs thrust through one leg of his pants, Bertagna said.

The chains, which were wrapped around his ankles five times, had caused “slight bruising and redness," police said.

The mother, identified as 37-year-old Irma Jacobo Navarro, said she could not afford a babysitter for the boy and was already paying for a babysitter for a younger child, police said. An older child was at school.

Police said their investigation revealed that the boy found Thursday had an alleged history of leaving home without telling his mother, Bertagna said. Sometimes, Bertagna said, the boy wouldn't return home until after dark.

According to reports, Navarro worried her child was "taking the wrong road," Bertagna said, and was perhaps becoming involved with area gang members.

Navarro was booked for willful cruelty to a child and is due in court Monday. Jail records say she works as a janitor.

"Basically, this was a last resort in an attempt to get control of her kid. Unfortunately it's not the proper method to do so," Bertagna said.

Bertagna urged parents who may be struggling with their children to seek help from available state resources.

Another Santa Ana mother was charged Thursday with starving her 4-year-old daughter, who weighed 18 pounds.

Antonia Benitez, a mother of nine, dropped her malnourished daughter off at a local hospital June 3 and fled.

Benitez is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Her arraignment was expected to occur Friday.

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Twitter: @emfoxhall

emily.foxhall@latimes.com

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