A 21-year-old Provo mother was behind bars Wednesday, the day after her unsupervised toddler was rescued from inside a large metal trash bin.
Nicole Elton, a neighbor of the mother, said she arrived at the Boulders Apartments Complex, 750 S. 650 West, about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday to see the woman's 3-year-old daughter inside the container. The girl's 2-year-old brother was on the ground next to it, Elton said.
The girl told her she was in the dumpster looking for food for the family, according to Elton. She pulled the toddler from the bin and since the girl was clad only in pants and the boy only a diaper, Elton clothed them and took them to the apartment complex office since their mother wouldn't answer her door.
Provo police were called to the complex but could not contact the mother either after repeatedly knocking on her apartment door and calling her cellphone several times, said Sgt. Brandon Post.
They also tried to find the father, but discovered he was in the Utah County Jail at the time, Post said. He could not elaborate on why the father had been arrested.
Police then learned that the mother, identified as 21-year-old Stephania Chavez, had two other children, both 8-month-old infants, inside her apartment.
"As they were attempting to make contact, officers could hear at least one of the children inside the apartment crying," Post said. "Officers obtained a key from apartment management and began to open the apartment door."
As one of the officers inserted the key in the lock, Chavez suddenly opened the door and officers went inside.
"Once inside, officers found a very unkempt apartment littered with dirty diapers and empty beer cans," Post said. "The Division of Child and Family Services responded and took custody of all four children."
Chavez was booked into the Utah County Jail on suspicion of child abuse and/or neglect. She was being held in lieu of $3,700 bail.
Mike McFall contributed to this story.