2 Charges Are Added in 'Home Alone' Case

Times Staff Writer

A Placentia mother accused of leaving her two young children home alone for 19 days while courting a man in North Carolina was charged Wednesday with abandoning her kids while on a previous trip to London.

Janet Hseuh Chen, 31, will be arraigned today on two new charges of child endangerment and neglect, as well as for the original two charges, according to prosecutors.

Authorities allege that Chen first left her children -- ages 4 and 7 -- home alone in late November while she traveled to London for two weeks. They believe it was during this time that the children learned to fend for themselves, acquiring survival skills that amazed the police officers who discovered the kids unattended this month after Chen allegedly abandoned them for a second time.

The mother was arrested Jan. 8 when she returned home to find her children gone. Neighbors became suspicious days earlier when they spotted the 4-year-old boy peering out the window. Neighbors also found a week-old tag for a missed package delivery hanging on the door. Their suspicions led to a call to police.

The children, according to authorities, had been left with cereal, milk, frozen TV dinners and corn dogs, and given instructions on how to use the microwave. In North Carolina, Chen met with a man she had become acquainted with via the Internet.

The food had run out the same day police discovered the children, and more than 24 hours before Chen's scheduled return. When police entered the apartment, neighbors said, the children hid in a closet but were quickly coaxed out.

According to the charges filed Wednesday, Chen also left the children alone from Nov. 22 to Dec. 6. Prosecutors released few details about this trip, and a spokeswoman for the district attorney declined to comment further. Chen's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Chen is being held on $50,000 bond. A hearing will be held today to reconsider Chen's bail.

The children are staying at Orangewood Children's Home while authorities decide whether to place them in foster care or with family. They are said to be in good health.

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