ORANGE — A 3-year-old girl whose newborn brother was killed by a starving pet rat will remain temporarily at a county-run facility for children, an Orange County Juvenile Court commissioner ruled Tuesday.
Eugene Howard, director of children's services at the Orange County Social Services Agency, declined to release details of a closed-door dependency hearing on the fate of Karissa Giguere.
The girl was taken from her parents last week after her 4-month-old brother, Steven, was bitten more than 110 times by the family's pet rat as the baby slept in the family's station wagon. The boy bled to death after the rodent struck an artery.
Steven J. Giguere Sr., 27, and Kathyleen E. Giguere, 30, a homeless and unemployed couple, were charged Monday with involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors are awaiting results of drug tests performed on the parents, who allegedly used much of their welfare money to purchase drugs.
Howard would say little about the future custody of the child, but he added that the court's determination initiates a 21-day fact-finding period to determine where the child should be permanently placed. She is now at the Orangewood Children's Home, a county-run facility in Orange for neglected and abused children.
Karissa is reported to be in good health, Howard said. "She's doing as well as can be expected given the trauma this child must have gone through," he said.
The pet rat, named Homer, weighed about half a pound and was a foot long, including a six-inch tail.
A necropsy performed on the rat revealed bits of the boy's flesh and blood in its stomach, but it also showed that the rodent was malnourished, officials said.