Kimberly Rodriguez walked into the courtroom in handcuffs and spoke in short sentences when questioned by Judge Denise Collins, who spoke to her through a translator.
According to the charging document, Rodriguez was away from her home last Friday when neighbors saw her three kids -- ages four, two and fifteen months -- walking outside in the cold with no shoes on, digging through the garbage, looking for scraps of food and shaking from the cold.
One of them, they say, was eating a discarded banana peel.
Neighbors tried to take the kids back to their home and found Rodriguez wasn't there.
The prosecutor trying the case says photos of the apartment showed the children were living in unsanitary conditions.
"When officers investigated her house, they found it was ill kept," said prosecutor Matt Harding. "It smelled bad and there was not enough food for the children."
Judge Collins also indicated Rodriguez appears to be in the country illegally.
HPD officers arrested Rodriguez at a nearby flea market, which also serves as a night club. This morning, she was assigned a court-appointed attorney and returned to jail.
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