SANTA ANA . (AP) — An Orange County woman has been charged with starving and abusing her 4-year-old daughter to within hours of death before taking her to a local hospital, police said Friday.
Antonia Benitez, 36, of Santa Ana, was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of felony child abuse. She remains jailed and could face up to 14 years and six months in prison if convicted, according to the district attorney's office.
Police say Benitez's youngest of nine children weighed just 18 pounds when she was taken to a hospital last month with a wound on her leg.
"She was potentially hours away from death," said Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. "You know those posters from Third World countries where kids are starving and emaciated? She could have been used in one of those posters."
The girl was removed from the home while police investigated. She started gaining weight and her health improved, although she was recently hospitalized for issues related to her leg, Bertagna said.
Last year, Benitez took the girl to the hospital for being under weight. The case was not reported to law enforcement at the time, the district attorney's office said.
All of Benitez's children have been placed in the custody of Social Services.
She is being held on $250,000 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned late Friday. It was not immediately clear whether Benitez had an attorney.