SANTA PAULA, Calif. - A Santa Paula mother was arrested and is expected in court on Wednesday after investigators said she tied a plastic bag over her three-year-old son’s head and set their home on fire.
Maricela Magana Ruiz, 47, was bailed out of jail on Monday after Santa Paula police said she tied a plastic grocery bag around her son’s head, tied his hands together and left him on the third floor of their townhome on Bahia Circle Sunday evening.
Ruiz then lit their living room on fire and tied her feet to her bed on the second floor.
Ventura County firefighters responded to the scene and rescued Magana and the boy while putting out the fire, authorities said.
“Who knows what’s going on inside that head of hers?” said Mike Klein who shares a wall with Ruiz’s townhome.
“She seemed really nice. When I would come home, the garage door would open. She was there and would say ‘hi.’ Her son would come over and say ‘hi.’ We just heard a bunch of commotion coming out over here. Glass broke. Smoke was just pouring out.”
Interim Police Chief Matthew Rodriguez said Ruiz called 911 and tried to cover it up. “She couldn’t tell us who did it initially so that was the beginning of a real inconsistent story.
Through the persistence of our investigators and allied agencies, we’ve determined there was something very suspicious with this from the beginning. Scary enough, but the fire was actually about one foot away from a couch. Had that couch actually ignited, we would be having a different discussion here.”
The boy suffered significant smoke inhalation but is otherwise fine.
He is currently with the Department of Children and Family Services. Detectives say they’re looking into child custody issues and his mother’s mental health.
Both were taken to a nearby hospital and treated.
Santa Paula Police Department responded to the scene along with arson investigators from the Ventura County Fire Department and initiated a criminal investigation.
“From a father’s perspective, I think it’s as tragic as can be,” said Chief Rodriguez. “The child is three-years-old and from what I am told, very mature for three years old, very articulate and strong. But the word that comes to mind is tragic, across the board.”
Ruiz is facing felony child endangerment charges.
She was held at the Ventura County Jail on $50,000 bail.
Ruiz is expected to be arraigned in court on Wednesday.
She is not allowed to return to her home because it is an active crime scene. Officers have also filed a temporary emergency protective order to prevent her from reuniting with her son right now.
A motive has not yet been determined.
The investigation regarding the origin of the fire is ongoing.