Mother Caged Children, Police Say

From a Times Staff Writer

A Santa Barbara day-care provider has been arrested on suspicion of child cruelty for allegedly keeping two of her four adopted children in cages and forcing another to live in a filthy, locked room, authorities said Tuesday.

Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez, 50, was booked into jail by Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies. Her children, ranging from ages 6 to 13, were placed in protective custody.

Acting on an anonymous tip, deputies said they went to Vasquez's house last week and found the children living in squalid conditions. A 12-year-old girl appeared to be well cared for but the others were "undernourished and had clothing that was soiled with urine and feces," according to a department news release.

The woman's 6-year-old daughter told social workers that she slept on a mattress in a 3-foot-by-5-foot "cage" mounted on a wall above her bed, the release said. Her 9-year-old sister slept in another bedroom inside a 4-foot-by-5-foot plywood chamber with a small wire-mesh window and a lock that worked only from the outside.

"It appeared that the door and window had been damaged as if someone had tried to escape from this confined space," authorities said.

Vasquez's 13-year-old son allegedly stayed in a room where deputies found a bucket containing excrement.

Officials on Tuesday were trying to learn more about the day-care business operated by Vasquez, a licensed provider. They were asking anyone who has or has had children in her care to contact the Sheriff Department's Detective Division at (805) 681-4150.

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