EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — A 26-year-old mother of six is being held under $500,000 bond on charges of injury to a child after South Texas authorities say she tried to discipline her 2-year-old son by holding his hand over a kitchen stove burner flame.
Claudia Ponce was arraigned Friday and jailed in Hidalgo County. She told authorities she was in the country illegally from Mexico, had no relatives in the U.S. and worked as a prostitute, according to Hildago County Sheriff Lupe Trevino.
"I can't conceive how a mother could willingly cook the hands of her child by holding them over an open flame," Trevino said.
He called the child abuse case "by far the worst" of his 41 years in law enforcement.
Court documents reviewed by The Monitor newspaper (http://bit.ly/11uGCdX ) show Ponce contended the boy burned himself by grabbing a hot pot from the stove.
Her five other children are all under the age of 7 and have been placed in custody of child welfare authorities. Trevino said all were born in the United States.
He said deputies who went to the Rio Grande Valley home north of Weslaco last weekend to check on report of an injured child determined the severity of the 2-year-old's wounds couldn't have been an accident.
Ponce was arrested Thursday. Authorities believe the boy was burned about two weeks ago.
A probable cause affidavit said other children told authorities their mother had been upset, ordered them to remain in a room in their home or she would beat them, and told them she was going to burn the 2-year-old's hands.
The sheriff said the woman was angered because the child wouldn't stop crying.
"This woman admitted to disciplining her children in a brutally excessive manner," Trevino said. "She said she would beat them with a belt or a stick."
The child's burns became infected. Trevino said the boy was taken to a Galveston burn center for treatment, then released Friday to a foster family that specializes in burn victims.
Information from: The Monitor, http://www.themonitor.com