UPDATE: Child was locked in room that caught on fire

Saturday, July 20, 2013 - 7:39pm

A man accused of locking his son inside of a burning room at a home in the 1500 of Upton Street in the Sunset Heights neighborhood, was released from jail last night on $1000 bond.

Fourty-two year old Manuel Varela was arrested and charged with abandoning or endangering a child with criminal negligence on Saturday.

Varela's 12 year-old son told officials that at 4 am on Saturday, he turned the wall heater on in his room because he was cold, and that's when the heater allegedly caught some clothes on fire. The boy said he began banging on his bedroom door, screaming to his father for help.

A neighbor living across the street heard the boy screaming, and tried to help him escape, but there were bars over the window.

She then allegedly went to the front door and started banging on it, and that's when Varela opened the door and let his son out.

"This morning I saw some fire trucks and two or three cop cars and some ambulance and so some lights were flashing and I just came out to see what was going on, i basically saw 5 fire people going inside the house, they dragged out a person and searched him pretty good" one neighbor said.

"I basically saw the fire people going inside their house. One of my friends was telling me that that they dragged out a person and searched him. I've been living in this neighborhood for almost two years now and I've never seen any of these kinds of things so far," said the neighbor.

According to police, once outside the apartment, Varela told his son to go back inside and get clothes from his room, and to take a shower.

When officers interviewed the young boy, he told police that there were still things on fire in the room when he returned for his clothes.

Child Protective Services placed the boy in foster care, while they continue to investigate the case.

Varela allegedly locked his son in a bedroom every night with a deadbolt lock.

Local4News spoke with two neighbors who said Varela is a "good guy," a church-goer, and works as a maintenance man in the apartment complex where he and his son live. They said his son has a mental disability and takes medication, which is why they believe Varela locks him in his bedroom at night.


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