Prosecution witnesses took the stand in a pretrial hearing starting last Friday to determine if there is enough evidence to try Sylvia Vasquez (pictured) on felony child abuse charges. Vasquez — a well-regarded childcare provider in Santa Barbara for more than a dozen years — is suspected of mistreating her four adopted children. The first witness against Vasquez was a Spanish-speaking housecleaner, Fabiola Rosas de Arzate, who made the initial report to police after working for Vasquez for one day. When shown a police photograph of a bed-length, perforated metal enclosure — veiled by billowing pink and blue curtains and bolted to the wall — the housecleaner said she witnessed Vasquez’s six-year-old daughter being locked in there as a disciplinary measure. Rosas de Arzate also described a small room where she believed a nine-year-old girl was kept all day with nothing to eat or drink and a bucket for a toilet, which the girl emptied and washed when she was released for about 10 minutes in the late afternoon.
William Vasquez — Vasquez’s grown son — acknowledged that buckets were provided for the three adopted children who were locked into their rooms at night. However, he insisted that the witness was wrong and the four children — two sets of siblings aged 6 through 14 — were neither abused nor neglected. Rather, he said, three of the four were locked in at night because of severe behavioral problems exacerbated by years in unstable foster care situations and several failed adoptions. A live-in governess who slept in the locked room with the nine-year-old is expected to be called this week by the prosecution.