Page 19


First you’re arrested for abandonment, then , comes chip-care assistance. N THE MORNING OF MAY 19, 2009, A maintenance worker in a north Austin apartment complex knocked on the door to apartment 1226. The door swung open, and before him stood a 4-year-old girl with dark brown hair and big eyes. When she told the worker she was at home by herself, he reported his finding to the complex’s manager, who called 911. Police and Child Protective Services arrived and surveyed the apartment. Clorox and other cleaning solutions were stored in cabinets without locks; the girl was tall enough to reach the stove; and the apartment had no telephone in case of emergency. Authorities located the girl’s 24-year-old mother, Michelle Delvecchio, at work. After she told detectives she was leaving her daughter, Melanie, unsupervised three days a week for two-hour stretches, CPS removed the girl from her home. Delvecchio and her boyfriend were charged with abandoning a child, a felony that carries up to two years in jail. One of Delvecchio’s neighbors later spoke about the incident on a local TV newscast. Holding her 2-monthold son on her hip, she asked what any viewer would want to know: “How could somebody do such a thing?” THINGS HAD BEEN going relatively well for Delvecchio at the time of her arrest. She had landed a job as a medical assistant at a local endocrinology practice and moved in with her boyfriend, a student at the University of Texas. The previous few years had been difficult. She’d struggled financially, gone through several jobs, and 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG