The mother of a 4-year-old Lancaster boy was booked on suspicion of murder Thursday after sheriff's deputies--alerted by the Christian Broadcast Network--went to her apartment and found the child stabbed to death in a bedroom and five poodles drowned in a bathtub, authorities said.
Andra Reynolds, 29, was still talking to a counselor from a telephone hot line run by CBN's "700 Club" when deputies arrived.
It was the second time deputies had been to the apartment Wednesday. They had gone there in the afternoon in response to a call from a relative who had worried that Ricky Reynolds might be in danger. But deputies said the boy was all right and his mother was calm and cooperative. Homicide Lt. Robert Bauder said there was no evidence of child abuse.
Word that something might be wrong at the Reynolds' apartment was telephoned to the Antelope Valley sheriff's substation about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday by a "700 Club" counselor at CBN's headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va.
Benton Miller, a CBN spokesman, declined to say what the counselor and Andra Reynolds talked about, but he described generally what happened:
"A woman told us that she thought that she might have killed her son," Miller said. "We continued to talk to her, notified authorities on another line and continued to talk to her until they arrived.
"It makes us heartsick. The holidays, unfortunately, is a time that tends to generate an enormous amount of depression in a lot of people. We get a lot of calls during the holiday season."
At the 90-unit apartment house on West Avenue I, the manager, Nell Wilson, said Thursday that Andra Reynolds had told her she "was on medication for depression." But Wilson described her tenant as a "real friendly, outgoing person" who never appeared violent or discussed her personal troubles.
Those problems included failure to pay her $440-a-month rent for the first time on Dec. 1, according to Wilson. And, she said, Reynolds and her husband had parted earlier this year.
"I know that about four to six weeks ago she got into some kind of religious organization," Wilson said. "She was saying that she was a reborn Christian. . . . When she couldn't pay her rent, she said she had given it to the church. The only explanation she gave me is that the church told her the Lord would provide.
"I told her she had to pay her rent, but I didn't give her a notice to move, and she said she would pay it."
Wilson said she thought Reynolds belonged to a religious group called the Springs of Life in Lancaster. A man who answered the telephone listed for the organization declined comment. 'We know nothing, and we have no comment," he said. He declined to identify himself.
One of Reynolds' neighbors, Rhina Lily Merriman, 76, said that Reynolds was always inviting her to go to the Springs of Life Church in Lancaster. She said that Reynolds once worked as a bookkeeper for a local department store but lost her job.
She said Reynolds moved into the apartment house after getting married.
"No one can understand why she did it," Merriman said. "And, when they told me that the little boy was dead, I just couldn't believe it."