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Man arrested after child found locked in burning room

Updated: Monday, July 22 2013, 10:53 AM MDT

By: Bill Melugin, Elena Arteaga, Joshua Zuber
EL PASO -- An El Paso man faces several charges after police found a child locked inside of a burning bedroom. 

El Paso Police said in a release that officers responded to the 1500 block of Upson in Central El Paso just after 4 
a.m. on Saturday to find neighbors saying a boy was screaming from his room, which was on fire.

"My wife woke me up early this morning and said there's something going on, when I woke up, I didn't know where I was, but I could see the lights, and I could hear the sirens out there," said a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. "She said something was happening next door, so I got up immediately, and what I saw was somebody yelling through the windows and the porch on the right hand side of the house, then I saw somebody running from the back."

Neighbors told police they tried to free the 12-year-old boy from his room, but the window was enclosed in bars. 

That's when police said the neighbors went to go knock on the residence's front door, and the child's 
caretaker, 42-year-old Manuel Varela, answered the door.

Varela then, police said, went to the room and let the child from the room by unlocking the door's deadbolt.

"After a while, Mr. Valera came out of the door, and apparently he was asleep, he was talkign to somebody and went toward the basement and then unlocked the door," a neighbor said.

Neighbors say Valera and the boy have been living in the neighborhood for about two years.

"Mr. Valera is quiet, he'll talk to you, he's pretty friendly and everything, he doesn't seem to be on drugs, I've never seen him with a beer in his hand," a neighbor said. "I had no idea [he was deadbolting the door], and if he's doing that and he's in county jail, that is something well deserved.

Officials said after once out of the room Varela told the child to return to the room and get some clothing. 

The child reportedly told officers that there were still items on fire inside the room when Varela told him to go back inside.

The El Paso Fire Department extinguished the fire. 

EPPD investigators said that Varela locked the child in the room every night. 

Police said the boy is now in Child Protective Services custody. 

Varela faces a charge of abandoning or endangering a child with criminal negligence.

He was booked into jail with a $3,000 bond.

Man arrested after child found locked in burning room

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