10 Modesto Children in Protective Custody after Girl Goes to School Smelling of Marijuana

MODESTO -- Four adults have been accused of letting down 10 children by forcing them to grow up in a Modesto home filled with hundreds of pounds of marijuana set for processing.

Nestor Leon lives a just few blocks down from the Panama Drive home busted Monday.

"I feel like something bad must have happened. Like something really, really bad because in a regular crime there's just one or two police cars in the crime but in this one there was like nine or 10," the 11-year-old said.

Leon was just coming home from school when he saw a slew of Modesto police officers and members of the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency swarm the area.

Officials were alerted to the possible pot operation after a 12-year-old girl showed up to school smelling strongly of marijuana. That prompted an administrator to request a security check at her home.

Then came the arrests of Alma Rangel Zamora, Romero Robledo Bruno, Maria Dominguez Vargas and Benito Villobos Loya for a combination of child endangerment and drug charges.

Child Protective Services removed 10 children from their custody, five mothered by Zamora and three by Vargas.

The youngest is a 2-month-old born to a 17-year-old associated with Vargas, who was also living with her on Panama Drive.

Nestor said he's in the same after-school program with the girl who supposedly carried the suspicious odor from that home to class.

"She's nice," he said. "We sit next to each other when we do homework."

"That is crazy. I don't think the neighborhood would be safe like that. We don't know anything," said Nina Ith who lives closer to the suspects' house. "Normally I know my neighbors. We're good, we watch each other's backs. I didn't expect this to happen at all."

Ith was stunned by what investigators say they uncovered right up the road and worried about the security of the whole neighborhood.

"That's very dangerous. I mean, something like that you have in the house," she said. "You know, there's kids. You want your kids to be safe, so don't have that around your house."

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