Oakdale police arrested a Modesto mom suspected on Sunday afternoon of leaving her 11-year-old son and 39 cats inside the cargo area of a moving truck in a motel parking lot on a day when the temperature topped 102 degrees.
A police news release identified the mother as 51-year-old Heidi Gusman. She was booked at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on suspicion of child and animal cruelty. She was in custody as of Monday afternoon and her bail was $50,000.
Child Protective Services placed the 11-year-old in protective custody, according to the release. Gusman also has a 16-year-old daughter, and CPS placed her in protective custody, according to police Lt. Joe Carrillo.
Carrillo said police did not have any information to believe the 16-year-old was in the cargo area around the time police arrived, but she could have been earlier.
The cats were taken to the Oakdale Animal Shelter.
Oakdale officers were dispatched to the Motel 6 at 825 East F St. about 4 p.m. Sunday on a report of a hysterical woman seeking help for her cats. Officers spoke with Gusman in the lobby.
"Officers were also notified by other citizens they heard loud banging noises coming from inside a nearby moving truck," the release said. "Officers determined the prior noises were related to Gusman’s 11-year-old son and 39 cats that were left unattended inside the cargo area of the truck, appearing to be in significant distress from the magnified effects of the day’s high heat."
The release said Sunday's high was 102 degrees.
Oakdale police Public Information Officer Janeen Yates said it appeared Gusman may have been in between residences, and there were clothes and other items inside the rental truck's cargo area.
Carrillo said the children's aunt had been staying with Gusman and her children at the Motel 6. He said there was no evidence the aunt had committed a crime, and officers released her. A Motel 6 supervisor did not respond to a request for comment.
Public records indicate Gusman recently had been living on Boston Way in northeast Modesto. Neighbors said a son and daughter lived with Gusman, but they kept to themselves. One neighbor said she was surprised by the number of cats in cat carriers that were brought out of the house when the family moved out.
Gusman also has an outstanding case from March 2017 involving alleged violations of the state Education Code related to the habitual truancy of a student, according to court records. The case is an infraction and the bail is $250.
Oakdale police continue to investigate Sunday's incident and ask anyone with additional information to call Detective Don Stilwell at 209-847-2231.