Neighbors of a Palmdale woman charged with assaulting and torturing two of her children said Thursday that they never even realized she had kids.
The siblings — a boy, 8, and girl, 7 — did not play outside and were rarely seen, said Cynthia Otero, who runs a day care center at a home opposite the house in the 39000 block of Clear View Court where Ingrid Brewer is alleged to have mistreated the youngsters.
Otero said that when she recently spotted the children getting out of a car, she thought Brewer, 50, “might be baby-sitting.”
So neighbors in the suburban cul-de-sac were the more shocked when word spread that Brewer was arrested on suspicion of crimes against her children, she said. Brewer is being charged with eight felony counts, including torture, assault with a deadly weapon and cruelty to a child.
According to authorities, Brewer reported the children missing Jan. 15, prompting a search by deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Palmdale Station. The youngsters were found hours later hiding under a blanket near a parked car on a street close to their home. They were without winter clothes in 20-degree weather, authorities said.
Sgt. Brian Hudson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau, said the children told investigators they ran away because Brewer deprived them of food, locked them in separate bedrooms when she went to work each day, bound their hands behind their backs with zip ties and beat them with electrical cords and a hammer. The youngsters also said that when they were locked in the bedrooms and needed to use the bathroom, they instead had to use wastebaskets, Hudson said.
They fled because “they were tired of being tied up and beaten,” Hudson said.
Hudson said both children had injuries consistent with the alleged abuse, including marks on their wrists indicating they had been restrained and “numerous bruising and abrasions over their bodies.” They told investigators the mistreatment had been happening since Halloween.
Neighbors interviewed by authorities said they had never noticed anything suspicious but “hardly ever saw the two children,” Hudson said. Otero and another neighbor said Brewer did not make friends on the block.
Otero said Brewer was “unfriendly” and typically ignored verbal greetings and waves.
According to sheriff’s officials, Brewer, a certified nursing assistant who works in Los Angeles and has adult children, adopted the young siblings about a year ago from foster care. They were home schooled.
Neil Zanville, a spokesman for the county Department of Children and Family Services, said his agency was legally prohibited from disclosing any case-specific information about past or present clients. But in a written statement, the agency’s director, Philip Browning, called the report disturbing.
“While we cannot confirm or deny whether this family is under our supervision, I am personally looking into this situation to determine what role, if any, our department had in these children’s lives,” Browning said.
Sheriff’s officials said Thursday that the children were “doing great” despite their injuries.
Otero lamented that they had been made to suffer.
“It’s just so sad,” said the neighbor, who has a 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old twins. “I wish they would have knocked on my door. I would have helped them.”
Brewer is in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, with bail set at $2 million. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, Hudson said.
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.