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'I Am Not a Monster Mother' : Tragedy: Homeless woman whose infant son was bitten to death by a starving pet rat says she and her husband had tried to make a good life for their children.


SANTA ANA — A sobbing Kathyleen Giguere, charged with involuntary manslaughter after her infant son was bitten to death by a starving pet rat, declared in a jailhouse interview Thursday: "I am not a monster mother."

Giguere, 30, said she and her husband, who also faces a manslaughter charge, tried to make a good life for their children and do not belong in jail with criminals.

Authorities have portrayed Giguere and her husband, Steven, 27, as irresponsible parents who allowed their two young children to live in a filthy car and then did nothing as their 4-month-old son, Steven Jr., bled to death Sunday night from more than 100 rat bites. The couple was sleeping in an old station wagon with the boy, their 3-year-old daughter and their pet rat.

In a half-hour interview in the Orange County Jail, the mother said the loss of her son had left her and her husband stunned and grieving.

Giguere, who said she grew up in the San Fernando Valley, described her life as one of poverty and struggle, not of neglect and criminal abuse.

"I'm a good mother. I never put my kids in any danger," she said. "I'm a mother who cares about my children, regardless of what anyone says."

Acquaintances and relatives have depicted the Gigueres as more interested in buying drugs and alcohol than food for their children. Orange County social service officials had received five complaints of neglect against the couple.

Kathyleen Giguere said the accusations were lies aimed at destroying her family. She said the family has lived on welfare at times and was also forced to beg when money ran out. They often purchased alcohol with the money they had, but the children always had food, diapers and other necessities, she said.

She said the family became homeless after her husband lost his two jobs last year. Her husband's pride would not allow him to ask family or friends for help, she said.

As a result, the couple and their two children began living in the family station wagon earlier this year, she said.

"It wasn't the best place for the kids, but it was the best we had," Giguere said.

"My husband had too much pride to ask his parents for help. They've been so good to us already, he didn't want to ask for more," she said. Steven Giguere was constantly looking for work, she said, but jobs were hard to get without a phone, an address or new clothes.

Giguere said she and her husband should not be in jail, where the bizarre circumstances of their arrest have now become widely known.

Jail mates hiss "child killer" at her, Giguere said, and she fears for her safety.

"I don't think people like us belong in jail," Giguere said.

The pain of losing her son is punishment enough, she said.

"I'm never going to hold him; I'm never going to see his giggly smile for his mom."

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