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Friday, May 15 2009 10:27 AM

Bakersfield dad accused of biting out son's eye

BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

A Bakersfield father is accused of biting out one of the eyes of his small child and similarly mutilating the other eye, leaving the child blind.

After attacking the child, 34-year-old Angel Vidal Mendoza Sr. quickly left his apartment in a wheelchair, entered a backyard of a nearby vacant home and attacked his own legs with an ax, severely injuring himself, Bakersfield police reported.

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HOW CAN CHILD ABUSE BE PREVENTED?

One of the best ways to help protect children is for the public to call CPS if they see potential abuse or neglect, CPS program director Brian Parnell said.

The agency sees 1,100 children a month, he said. Most remain with their parents while social workers work the case, he said.

There's a variety of programs to help parents, including some dealing with drug abuse, he said.

If someone suspects abuse or wants to help out with the care of children, he or she should call 631-2004. Parents who feel they need help for themselves can call the same number.

The names of callers who report abuse remain confidential, he said.

The child, 4-year-old Angelo Mendoza Jr., later told police, "My daddy ate my eyes."

Doctors at Mercy Hospital said it is unknown whether the child will regain vision in his right eye.

Child Protective Services cannot discuss the case, CPS program director Brian Parnell said. But in cases of serious abuse, the child is taken into protective custody, he said.

Some foster homes have specialized medical training, but more such people are needed, he said.

The boy's mother, Desirae Marie Bermudez, 23, was not present during the incident. There is a $15,000 warrant for her arrest for failing to complete a drug treatment program in late 2008, court documents say.

A search warrant report said the father "was displaying symptoms of being under the influence of PCP."

Both he and Bermudez were charged with being under the influence of PCP in a 2006 criminal case. Both pleaded no contest to child endangerment charges in that case, records say.

So why was the boy still living with the father?

CPS officials say there has to pretty much be serious physical abuse -- major bruises or broken bones -- before a child is taken away from his parents automatically.

In cases where parents are using drugs, CPS will definitely check on the child, Parnell said. But they won't necessarily remove the child. That all depends on the extent of the drug abuse or the availability of other care -- relatives or neighbors -- for the children, he said.

The incident happened in the early evening of April 28 at the apartment the father and son share at 422 Ohio Drive near Terrace Way and Madison Street in southeast Bakersfield.

Police and search warrant reports say:

On the morning of April 28, Mendoza asked neighbor Elizabeth Rodriguez, 36, for a ride to a work-related appointment later in the day.

At 6 p.m., she sent her 12-year-old son to get Mendoza. The boy said Mendoza opened his door slightly and looked nervous, but didn't let him in. Mendoza said he would be right out.

But a few minutes later, Rodriguez saw Mendoza rolling his wheelchair quickly away.

The 12-year-old boy and another neighbor went to Mendoza's apartment and discovered the child on the floor.

Meanwhile, witnesses told police a man was yelling and screaming in a wheelchair from the backyard and hitting his legs with an ax.

Mendoza, who remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail, is charged with mayhem, torture, child cruelty and inflicting an injury to a child.

He's scheduled for a May 20 hearing.

His criminal history dates back to 1998 and includes convictions for drugs, battery, check forgery and a misdemeanor child endangerment.

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