Holiday couple abandon kids - but not pets
A husband and wife who found a dog sitter for their puppies, but left their nine-year-old son home to care for his younger autistic brother while they celebrated the new year in Las Vegas, have been arrested.
Jacob Calero and his wife Michelle De La Vega left Calero's sons Joshua, 9, and Jason, 5, at their San Ramon home early on Friday while the newlyweds headed out of town for a five-day trip, police said.
They were arrested yesterday and charged with felony child endangerment, which carries a maximum sentence of six years. The children's mother, Cristina Calero, died of breast cancer in 2003 and Calero married De La Vega last year.
The maternal grandmother, Libbey Holden, said she called police after she suspected the couple had left the children behind.
"I had big concerns," Ms Holden said yesterday, sitting in her Manteca apartment filled with family pictures, including smiling portraits of her late daughter. "These kids are helpless."
Police said they found the children asleep in their beds on Saturday night, a day after being left alone.
A gas fireplace was turned on, but they found nothing out of the ordinary.
"It appears that the food and the environment were set up for them to be alone," San Ramon Police Sergeant Brian Kalinowski said.
The older boy said he was instructed to not answer the front door, so officers had to use a ladder to enter the home through an unlocked sliding glass door on a second-floor balcony.
Joshua said he and his brother ate cereal for breakfast and cooked frozen dinners in the microwave for lunch and dinner.
He said his dad and stepmother had left last weekend while they were asleep. They had asked him to watch his younger brother, but did not tell him where they were staying, he said.
"They shouldn't leave us alone," Joshua said, sitting in the living room of his grandmother's apartment.
"I didn't know who I could call in an emergency. Even if I called my father, he's far away, so there wouldn't be much he could do."
Joshua said the couple got each other puppies for Christmas, and went so far as to bring the pug and the poodle-Maltese mix to De La Vega's mother before leaving town.
"I thought they loved them more than us," the boy said.
Ms Holden said she tried calling Calero, but couldn't reach him. Worried, she consulted friends, and finally decided to call authorities.
Officers began calling Calero's mobile phone on Saturday, but he didn't call back until Tuesday.
The couple flew from Las Vegas early yesterday and were arrested at Oakland International Airport and jailed in Contra Costa County.
The couple had requested lawyers and declined to speak with police, authorities said.