BEULAVILLE, DUPLIN COUNTY - Officials say a 5-year-old boy who was a victim of child abuse is back in his parents' home. His mother, pictured above, was charged in the case.
Investigators said the mother used a rope to trap her son in a bedroom with no air conditioning for several hours, so that she could go to work.
According to Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace, Laura Luciano Blas, of North Railroad Street in Beulaville, used a rope to tie the bedroom door shut Wednesday. Trapped in the bedroom was her son Oscar Blas said Sheriff Wallace.
Nanette Outlaw with the Department of Social Services couldn't comment on this ongoing investigation but said children will not be sent back home unless officials know the child will be safe.
"We have services in place," Outlaw said. "We have ensured that the child is safe, or the child would not be there. Any time we are working with a family, even if abuse and neglect has occurred, our man objective mandated by law is to place that child back with that parent as soon as possible."
Sheriff Wallace said there was no air conditioning in the room where the child was confined in, even though outdoor temperatures climbed to the 90s. The boy's mother only left a McDonald's bag for her son while she was away from home, Wallace said.
The 5-year-old boy was trapped in the room for several hours, Sheriff Wallace told NewsChannel 12. Neighbor Jessica Davis said she noticed the child through the bedroom window, and called 911.
"He said he did have McDonald's, and he did show me a bag of a bunch of McNuggets and stuff like that, and a 2-liter bottle of water," said Davis, whose children are friends with the victim.
Sheriff Wallace said when deputies freed the 5-year-old boy, he was drenched in sweat and terrified.
"You can imagine how hot it was outside, much less in a small bedroom in a mobile home with no air conditioning," said Sheriff Wallace. "If that trailer had caught fire, that child wouldn't have stood a chance."
The 5-year-old boy is now doing okay and is in foster care, Wallace said.
According to Sheriff Wallace, Blas claimed she left her son in the bedroom so she could go to a doctor's appointment in Wilmington, then go to work at a Jacksonville restaurant.
"To think that you would neglect or abuse your own flesh and blood that way is very unnerving to me," Sheriff Wallace said.
Blas was arrested on Wednesday and was charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to a delinquency of a minor, her warrant stated. She has since been released from jail on a $10,000 secured bond. Her next court date is scheduled for August 21.
Sheriff Wallace said the child's father had left early for work that morning, and was unaware of the situation. Wallace said he is investigating whether previous child abuse had occurred in the family.
Neighbor Carlos Melchor says he offered to watch over Oscar if his family needed it.
"We understand their circumstance because she doesn't really know where to go for child care," Melchor said. "After that, we told her we could take care of him whenever she wanted to, when she needed it."