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Mother Enters Not-Guilty Plea to Leaving Kids, Taking Trips

January 24, 2003|Mai Tran and Monte Morin | Times Staff Writers

A Placentia mother accused of leaving her young children home alone while she took trips to London and North Carolina in November and December pleaded not guilty Thursday to child endangerment.

Janet Hseuh Chen, 31, wore a blue jail jumpsuit and kept her head down as the charges against her were read during her arraignment at North Justice Center in Fullerton. The four felony counts together carry a maximum 12-year prison sentence.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Roger B. Robbins ordered Chen to surrender her passport if she makes her bail, which is set $50,000.

Authorities allege that Chen left her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter home alone in late November while she traveled to London for 10 days.

They say she left them alone again for 19 days in December after she flew to North Carolina to meet a man she met over the Internet. The children had been left with cereal, milk, frozen dinners and corn dogs.

During Chen's second trip, neighbors saw the 4-year-old peering out of a window, became concerned and alerted authorities. Police rescued the children and turned them over to the Orange County Social Services Agency. Chen was arrested when she returned home Jan. 8 and discovered her children missing.

Only after Chen's arrest did authorities find evidence that she had allegedly abandoned her children in November as well -- school records tipped them off.

Chen had told police that the children were staying with her sister, authorities said.

Investigators are reviewing school records to determine whether Chen left the children alone at other times.

Chen's pretrial hearing is scheduled Feb. 27.

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