Updated at 2:27 p.m. ET with additional comment from the Santa Paula Police Department.
A California woman is accused of placing a bag over her young son's head and tying him up before binding herself as well inside a burning home.
Police were called to a reported fire at a Santa Paula home Sunday. When first responders arrived, they found the living room in flames, a woman tied to a bed in one bedroom and a young boy bound in a different bedroom, according to a press release from the Santa Paula Police Department.
Firefighters rescued the woman, Maricela Magana Ruiz, and her 3-year-old son, while extinguishing the fire, according to police. Ruiz, 47, and her son were treated for smoke inhalation at a nearby hospital. Both survived. A 70-year-old male relative of Ruiz, believed to be her father, arrived at the home around the same time as firefighters and he was also treated and released from a nearby hospital, local outlet the Ventura County Star reports.
Arson investigators from the Ventura County Fire Department assisted police in the matter and initiated a criminal investigation, which resulted in lengthy interviews with Ruiz. During that process, “detectives determined she endangered her 3-year old son by placing a plastic bag over his head and tying his hands before placing him in a bedroom by himself,” police said.
Her alleged motive is unknown, according to police. Investigators believe she tied up her son before binding her own legs to a bed, all before setting the home on fire, KTLA reports. Then, Ruiz allegedly made several calls, including to her father, before calling 911 to report that she was tied up in a home engulfed in flames.
At some point during the fire, police say the toddler was able to break free, although it's unclear when or how that happened. A Santa Paula Police spokesperson told Oxygen.com that while he was able to flee the room, the 3-year-old was still bound, though authorities haven't disclosed what he was bound with or where on his body. It wasn’t until first responders arrived on scene that he was able to be released from the bindings.
“The little boy actually was frightened and he exited the bedroom where he had been placed alone in an attempt to save himself and his mother,” Santa Paula Det. Christopher Rivera told KTLA.
Ruiz has been booked on a felony child endangerment charge and arson, according to the Santa Paula Police spokesperson. Her bail initially was set at $50,000, but was raised to $500,000 after the arson charge was tacked on. It’s not clear if she has a lawyer who can speak on her behalf at this time. She's due back in court Wednesday.
As a result of the bizarre incident, Ruiz’s son was placed in Child Protective Services custody, the Ventura County Star reports.
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