EDINBURG — Deputies say a woman used a stove top to burn the hands of her 2-year-old boy who wouldn’t stop crying.
Claudia Ponce, 26, was formally charged with injury to a child at an arraignment Friday at the Hidalgo County Jail. She’s accused of burning the hands of her 2-year-old son, Osiel, claiming that the child burned himself while grabbing a pot of hot soup on the stove, a probable cause affidavit states.
Deputies responded to Ponce’s home near the intersection of Mile 11 North and Mile 4 West, north of Weslaco, and noticed the severity of the burns couldn’t have been an accident, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said.
The sheriff called the incident “by far the worst case of child abuse” he’s seen in his 41-year career.
“I can’t conceive how a mother could willingly cook the hands of her child by holding them over an open flame,” Treviño said at a news conference following the arraignment.
A photograph of the hand shows burns over the entire palm with large blisters and scabbing.
“The child’s hand was severely burned and had gotten infected,” Treviño said.
Deputies learned the boy was burned by holding his hands over an open flame for an extended period of time.
Authorities placed Ponce’s other five children — all under the age of 7 — in state custody. Osiel was transported to a local hospital and has been transferred to the Shriner’s Hospital Burn Center in Galveston. He was released from medical care Friday morning and transferred to a foster family that specializes in burn victims, Treviño said.
Ponce, a native of Valle Hermoso, Tamps., told investigators that she had entered the country illegally, had no family in the U.S. and worked as a prostitute, the sheriff said. The children are all U.S.-born and his department would work to keep her from regaining custody, he said.
The children who stayed behind spoke with authorities and said their mother was upset and told them to stay in a room or she would beat them, telling the kids she would burn the toddler’s hands, the affidavit states.
Ponce remained at the Hidalgo County Jail on Friday in lieu of a $500,000 bond.
“This woman admitted to disciplining her children in a brutally excessive manner,” Treviño said. “She said she would beat them with a belt or a stick.”
Ildefonso Ortiz covers courts, law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (956) 683-4437 or on Twitter, @ildefonsoortiz.