Police: Mother Barricaded Door, Left Kids Alone

Neighbor Found Children Wandering Alone

A Greenwood mother left her four children home alone, barricading them inside the family's apartment, after she couldn't find a babysitter, police said.

Carmen Xique-Ortega (pictured) was arrested Wednesday on charges of child neglect after a neighbor found the children -- ages 6, 4, 2 and 1 -- wandering alone in the apartment complex, said Greenwood Police Chief Joe Pitcher.

Xique-Ortega told police that she couldn't find someone to care for the children before going to work Wednesday afternoon, so she blocked the doors and left the 6-year-old in charge, 6News' Sarah Cornell reported.

"The mother had pushed a large couch in front of the door to prevent either someone from coming in, or the children getting out," Pitcher said.

But the 6-year-old unlocked the back door to the apartment and a neighbor spotted the siblings wandering alone.

"She gathered the children up and took them back to her apartment, then started looking around the neighborhood to see if anyone was hunting lost children," Pitcher said.

Although neighbors said the area is safe, they said they're glad someone stepped up to help the children.

"It's not a safe world," said Jerry Carter. "I try to keep (my son) where I can see him, that or I know where he's at."

Pitcher said similar cases of children being left alone are becoming more common. Greenwood police have worked three in the last three weeks.

"I think it may be economic stress," he said. "People are having to deal with life with less financial resources. Maybe they are cutting things out that they shouldn't cut out."

All four of the children were in the custody of Child Protective Services. If convicted on all charges, Xique-Ortega could face up to three years in jail.