ROANOKE, Va. – Relatives of a 6-year-old girl in southwestern Virginia are accused of punishing her for taking food from the kitchen by repeatedly tying her up in a bedroom, surrounded by rubber snakes and spiders to scare her, police said Tuesday.
The girl's grandmother, aunt and uncle were in the Bristol, Va., jail on charges related to child abuse.
Bristol Police Sgt. Steve Crawford said there was evidence the girl was restrained in an apartment bedroom various times through July, including one week straight. He said police have reason to believe the practice had gone on longer than that.
"The little girl had taken food from the kitchen into her bedroom," Crawford said. "This was their solution. It was described to me as 'time out."'
The girl's aunt, Virginia Ramos, allegedly bound the girl's ankles and sometimes her wrists with some kind of fabric, Crawford said. Police have not found the restraints.
The girl, whose identity was not released, often was left on a bed and surrounded by five to 10 rubber snakes and spiders because they frightened her, the sergeant said.
Ramos and the grandmother, Elsie Reyes, 46, and uncle, Roberto Leiva, 25, were arrested Saturday and were "on lockdown" in the jail on $1,500 bond. Arraignment was set for Monday, when Crawford said the three would have attorneys appointed.
Ramos and Reyes were charged with abuse and neglect and reckless disregard for life. Leiva was charged with being an accessory. Police said other charges may be pending.
Reyes faces the same charges as Ramos because the grandmother was the girl's primary caretaker. Crawford said Leiva knew the girl was being bound and did nothing to stop it.
The three were arrested after the Department of Social Services received an anonymous complaint.
Police were looking for the girl's parents, who were not in the area. The girl was being cared for by another family member and would be examined to determine if she was malnourished.
Crawford said Ramos and Leiva moved a couple of months ago from Springfield, Mass., to Bristol, a city that straddles the Virginia-Tennessee line about 150 miles southwest of Roanoke. Reyes has lived in the city a longer time.