VALPARAISO — A woman accused of abandoning her children in a home without running water or a working furnace made her initial appearance in court Wednesday morning, bringing two children with her.

Thanh Nguyen, 46, was accompanied by Merrillville attorney Andrew Yoder during her initial hearing in front of Magistrate Court Judge Mary DeBoer.

Yoder asked Nguyen to have the children leave the courtroom before the session began. DeBoer set Nguyen's next hearing for 1 p.m. March 26 in front of Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper. DeBoer also entered a no-contact order between Nguyen and her children.

Yoder told DeBoer he was seeking to have the order modified, but would not comment further after the hearing, citing a juvenile court order.

Nguyen was arrested and charged with three felony counts of neglect of a dependent and one felony count of possession of a legend drug after the case came to light Feb. 11. Authorities learned of the case after Nguyen's oldest of three children, who is 16, sought help from school officials for a broken water pipe at their home in the 1100 block of Camelot Manor, according to Portage police.

He and his siblings, ages 11 and 10, told police Nguyen stopped by just long enough to drop off food on occasion and then could not be reached by phone, according to a police report.

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A school official reported the children have been heating the home with three space heaters and sometimes the oven turned on with the door left open, police said.

Police said when they located Nguyen, she said she had been at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. She denied the claims of her children, telling police, "I come home after they sleep and leave before they get up."

The case was further complicated when a misinterpretation of court documents led to her mistakenly being released from jail last month. She posted a $1,500 bond and was released two days before the bond was supposed to be taken up in court. A judge had ordered her held from her first hearing until a Vietnamese interpreter could be found.

Nguyen did not have an interpreter in court Wednesday.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.