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Mom put bag over 3-year-old’s head, tied him up and set their home on fire, police say

A Santa Paula woman was arrested Monday after police said she tied up her 3-year-old son, put a plastic bag over his head, left him inside his bedroom and set their home on fire over the weekend.

Maricela Magana Ruiz, 47, tied herself to a bed inside another bedroom of the home on Bahia Circle after setting the fire Sunday evening, according to investigators. She then called several people to ask for help, including her father, before contacting 911.

Ruiz’s father arrived at the home and found it filled with smoke, police said.

“He hollered out to the child and also to his daughter, and I think that startled the child,” said Matthew Rodriguez, interim police chief of the Santa Paula Police Department. “The child actually was able to free himself and come out into the hallway.”

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Maricela Magana Ruiz, 47.
Maricela Magana Ruiz, 47.
(Santa Paula Police Department)

About the same time, firefighters also arrived, Rodriguez said. They extinguished flames in the downstairs living room and rescued Ruiz and her son, police said. Both were taken to Santa Paula Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Detectives interviewed Ruiz and concluded she had placed a bag over the boy’s head and bound his hands before leaving him in the bedroom and tying herself up, police said. Evidence also indicated she had set the fire herself, according to investigators.

Ruiz was initially arrested on suspicion of child abuse, but as she was in the process of posting bail Monday night, she was rearrested on suspicion of arson of an inhabited structure, Rodriguez said. She’s currently in the Todd Road Jail, where she’s being held in lieu of $550,000 bail, jail records show.

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Authorities were continuing to investigate a possible motive on Tuesday.

“We’re looking at a number of different possibilities, including a possible custody dispute with the father of her child,” Rodriguez said. “We’re also looking at the possibility that she was attempting to kill herself and the baby.”

He said that police have been called to the home for a number of domestic incidents but that Ruiz has no history of violent crime.

Her child was initially placed into protective custody but has since been released to his father, Rodriguez said.


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