The Fresno County Sheriff's Department announced the arrest Monday of a 16-year-old girl on suspicion of felony child abuse. Her stepsister, a 4-month-old baby, is in serious condition at Children's Hospital Central California.
The single-wide trailer where the alleged crime took place is located southwest of Kerman on the 3000 block of South Congress Avenue.
Neighbors said the 16-year-old lived in the trailer with her boyfriend, their 1-year-old son, her mother, her older brother, her mother's 4-year-old and the baby.
The Sheriff's Department reported that family members brought the infant to Children's Hospital Central California because the baby had swelling to both arms. An examination showed the infant had several broken bones and possible head injuries. The hospital called authorities, who responded to the hospital about 11 p.m. Saturday.
Sheriff's Department investigators later went to the home, which they said was in "extremely dirty condition" with animal feces, garbage, rotting food and dirty clothing everywhere. They said the trailer is illegally rigged to electricity.
"The mom is pretty much gone all the time working," said Lori Fritcher, a 16-year-old who lives a few trailers away, past a three-legged pit bull chained to a doghouse with the name "Lucky" spray-painted above the door.
Ruby Hart, the landlady and a neighbor, said the mother of the 16-year-old and the injured baby had her respect because of how hard she worked.
"She's the nicest lady. When she was without a job she drove around picking up scrap metal. She packed in the fields, you'd see the scarf tied around her head. Then she got a job where she wore nurse's shoes. She worked 10 hours a day. I asked her how it was. She said 'Very, good. I give medicine, I wash and clean.' "
Hart says the 16-year-old's mother was never late with her $300 monthly rent. There is a language barrier between them, one only speaking English, the other mostly Spanish, but they always said hello.
Over the weekend, Hart went down the road to feed her daughter's animals. She says there were six or seven sheriff's cars in front of the woman's trailer.
"She looked so alone standing in front of all the police cars. I asked her what happened. She said 'My baby! My baby, four-months!' She was crying and shaking. Then she beat her chest and said, 'My daughter. My daughter did.' "
Sheriff's deputies say the 16-year-old is responsible for the infant's severe injuries. She was booked into Fresno County Juvenile Justice Facility.
Two children, ages 1 and 4, were turned over to Child Protective Services.