Modoc DA Drops Charges on Parents, Says Kids in Cribs Not Cages
A Modoc County man and woman originally arrested on suspicion of putting their kids in cages are no longer facing child-endangerment charges, with the district attorney saying the cribs they used are available online.
Media coverage of Ramon Alberto Zendejas and Mercadies Irene Williams’ arrests Friday went viral early this week, but the original headline that garnered so much attention is now what’s being disputed.
While Sheriff Tex Dowdy called the method of housing kids “heinous,” he said he agrees with District Attorney Sam Kyllo that there’s not enough evidence anything illegal was going on.
“Our threshold, as far as booking somebody on a specific charge, is much different than the DA’s threshold in prosecuting,” Dowdy said Wednesday. “This isn’t one against the other. It’s just, he felt, based on the information he received in the police report, it wasn’t sufficient for him to pursue charges on that particular charge.”
Zendejas, 25, will still face felony in possession of firearm charges and one count of possessing “a small amount” of methamphetamine, Kyllo said.
Meanwhile, Williams, Zendejas’ 25-year-old girlfriend, will still face a misdemeanor because she wasn’t allowed to have a firearm because of a past civil matter, Kyllo said.
“There is no evidence that the children were being cared for inappropriately,” Kyllo said of the kids, who both are under 2. “As I said before, these are cribs, not cages — they’re just stackable cribs.”
“I don’t see it as personally an acceptable way of housing your children, but that doesn’t necessarily violate a law.”
Deputies initially said they found evidence of a butane honey-oil lab in the house as well, and Dowdy said, if proven, that could have also played into a child-endangerment charge. Dowdy said there wasn’t a strong enough case for that charge either.
“That would have been a huge piece of this case, you know, obviously with the fire factor as well as the chemical factor,” Dowdy said. “In this particular case, there was just not … significant evidence to show that manufacturing was taking place within that residence.”
Kyllo said the sheriff’s office acted appropriately based on its initial concerns. The agency’s press release on the initial arrests said the cribs were “modified” to be “like dog crates.”
“I have met with the sheriff and we are in agreement with how this case should be charged,” Kyllo said.
Dowdy said the DA’s decision not to charge doesn’t mean he likes the cribs, but it’s about whether they’re legal.
“I don’t see it as personally an acceptable way of housing your children, but that doesn’t necessarily violate a law,” he said. “It’s just not a strong enough case. And at the end of the day, as heinous as it looks, at least for me, what I consider to be a cage-like structure … there’s some other factors that we would have to be able to prove that are not there in this case.”
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