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Rope on door, tape kept 2 kids indoors

By JOE HUMPHREY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000


Carmen Arellano, 32, and Gustavo Chavez, 38, are accused of child abuse and neglect.
TAMPA -- Like most 4-year-olds, Carmen Chavez has a knack for putting her hands where they don't belong. She likes to play in the cupboard, adjust the knobs on the stove and open the front door of the apartment.

To counter this, police said, her parents used duct tape Thursday to bind the girl's hands. Then they went to work, leaving Carmen and her 5-year-old brother, Gustavo, locked inside their apartment.

To make sure they didn't get out, police say the parents tied a rope from the knob to a nail on the door frame outside.

Another child in the Carlyle apartment complex at 8417 N Armenia Ave. came to play with Carmen on Thursday night and found the rope and the locked door.

When the parents returned two hours later from their jobs cleaning office buildings, police were waiting.

The mother, Carmen Arellano, 32, was in jail Friday, charged with child abuse and child neglect. The father, Gustavo Chavez, 38, was in jail on the same charges. The children are in state custody.

Four-year-old Lynette Marquez, who lives two flights above the Chavez family, met the children about a week ago and quickly became friends.

Thursday afternoon, Lynette said, she went downstairs and knocked on the door of the Chavez apartment. The children opened the door as far as the rope would allow them, creating a small gap.

Lynette's aunt, 20-year-old Marylu Toral, said the boy was crying for help and told Lynette to remove the rope so the door could be opened. Lynette then went inside, where she found Carmen's hands wrapped in duct tape.

photo
[Times photo: Thomas M. Goethe]
Lynette Marquez, 4, held by her mother, Veronica, found two of her friends home alone Thursday. Lynette helped them get out of their apartment and brought them to her mother.
"I saw her hands taped," the 4-year-old explained, her wrists touching to demonstrate. "She couldn't move."

Toral said the children sat alone in the downstairs apartment watching a cartoon video for about an hour before Lynette brought her friends upstairs. There, Lynette's mother, Veronica Marquez, was shocked at seeing Carmen's hands taped.

"When they came upstairs, I was like, "Oh, my God, What's going on?' " Marquez said.

Toral called police and tried to remove the duct tape. On one arm, she said, the tape was too tight to cut with scissors.

An arrest report said the parents also left the children alone, with Carmen's hands taped, on Wednesday night. Toral said the children's grandmother, who also lives in the apartment, is supposed to return within roughly an hour of the parents' leaving.

But she was running late Thursday night, Toral said.

Chavez and Arellano moved to Tampa only a few months ago from Venezuela, Toral said.

The children were left with their grandmother Thursday night. During a hearing Friday, the Department of Children and Families gained custody, spokesman Tom Jones said. He said that because the grandmother knew of the possible abuse and neglect, it was best for her not to supervise the children.

Toral said she didn't think Chavez and Arellano, whom she knew only in passing, are necessarily bad parents. Still, she is shocked at what happened.

"I woke up this morning and I thought this was all a bad dream," she said.

-- Contact Joe Humphrey at (813) 226-3403 or humphrey@sptimes.com.

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