HESPERIA, Calif. – A 13-year-old girl used Mother's Day to seek forgiveness, promise to behave and reassure her mom that she loved her. The handwritten card she gave her mother stood in stark contrast to what police said she did two weeks later.
The girl and two young friends were locked up in juvenile hall on charges of trying to murder the mother as she lay in bed.
"I don't know what to say. I just can't believe it," the mother told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Wednesday at her tiny mobile home.
Law enforcement officials now suspect it was the third time in a matter of hours the teens — two girls and a boy — had tried to kill the mother, possibly because she was strict with a curfew and critical of the girl's friends.
"It was just because of problems at home," sheriff's Deputy Osvaldo Pelayes said.
The mother did not seek medical attention after the other attacks, said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Rose, who declined to elaborate.
The mother admitted having a troubled relationship with her daughter. She said she called the police just over a month ago, fearing her daughter was using drugs, the Times reported. Her daughter denied it and ran away but returned a short time later.
She thought their relationship had improved when her daughter gave her a hand-drawn Mother's Day card with pleas for forgiveness and understanding just nine days before the attack.
"Mom, I know that we don't get along well and I shout at you. Please forgive me for what I did to you, that I yell and tell you that I don't love you, but yes I love you," the daughter said in the card, according to the Times. "I hope you can forgive me. I promise that I will behave well. Happy Mother's Day."
No one answered the door Tuesday at the white and tan mobile home where a neighbor said the incident occurred.
Authorities have not released the names of the mother or the teens. Prosecutors declined to comment about the possible filing of charges.
The arrests of the three teens for investigation of attempted murder stunned this city of 90,000 in the Mojave Desert that serves as a pit stop for motorists traveling between Southern California and Las Vegas.
Mark McKinney, superintendent of Hesperia Unified School District, said sheriff's investigators came to Ranchero Middle School on Tuesday and pulled a boy from class.
"It's a terrible tragedy," he said. "This is our last day of school." Neighbor Samantha Alvarez, 18, said she heard screaming and yelling next door late Monday night and thought it might be a couple fighting.
Then, her neighbor emerged, hunched over and shouting, "they took my daughter, they took my daughter," Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the woman said three kids came into the house, wearing hoods and with their faces covered. She said one of them hit her in the head with a flashlight, Alvarez said.
Cathryn Galloway, a former neighbor, said the girl started stirring up trouble when she moved into the mobile home park about a year ago.
Before then, the neighborhood kids played together nicely. But then they started fighting and making graffiti, Galloway said.
"She had a mouth on her," said Galloway, who has a teenage daughter about the same age. Galloway said the girl threatened her daughter, telling her "she needs to watch her back," at which point Galloway called the police, as officials had embarked on a campaign to crack down on bullying. Galloway said authorities said they would refer the case to the school police, but she never heard more about it.
Neighbor Felipa Avalos said she was waiting for her husband to come home from work around midnight when she heard a woman screaming and rushed outside to help.
"She was screaming, 'a phone, a phone,'" Avalos, a 30-year-old mother of four, said. "I called the police." Avalos said the woman told her three kids had attacked her inside her mobile home, and one of them hit her in the head. Avalos said the woman told her she didn't get a good look at their faces and was worried about her daughter and wanted to go look for her.
Avalos said she learned from the media that converged on the mobile home park that the daughter was among those suspected in the attack.
"It's something that one can't believe," she said. "I don't know what might have happened, what the girl might have in her head to do those things."