The boy's mother, Sheeron said, "was at her wits' end."
The child's behavior escalated Monday, when he allegedly recruited two younger boys for a home invasion targeting Minh Tran, who lives in a converted garage attached to a house in the 1200 block of East Luzerne Street, police said.
The trio entered an open front door and assaulted Tran, who does not speak English, police said. They whipped her with a rope, hit her with rocks and sticks, and fled with her purse and $20, Tran said through an interpreter.
Tran suffered cuts and bruises on her face and cuts and scrapes on her legs, police said. She had head and chest pain.
The boy's mother is cooperating with police, Sheeron said. The two other boys have not been arrested but are believed to live in the neighborhood, Sheeron said.
Hong-An Dao, who lives in the attached house with her husband, Pastor Tien Dao of the Vietnamese Alliance Church, said the trouble with the 10-year-old started about three weeks ago and got "worse and worse."
After the attack Monday, a man living in their basement told the boy's family what he had done, Hong-An Dao said. The boy's mother and other relatives came to the house to see the ransacked room and Tran's injuries, and the mother said to call police, Dao said.
Tran, an ethnic Chinese who was born and raised in Vietnam, came to the United States in 1999, Dao said.
Four years ago, someone told Dao that Tran was living alone in an apartment and had run out of food. Dao said she and her husband invited Tran to live with them in the garage, which they converted into an apartment for her.
While Dao spoke to a reporter, Tran came outside and smiled. She indicated that she was feeling better. Moments later, a woman from the church gave her a bag of oranges and grapes.
The boy accused of attacking Tran has been charged as a juvenile with aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, and related offenses. He was being held at the Youth Study Center.
Although the boy and the woman are of different races, "clearly there's more going on with someone this young" than racial animosities, said Alison Sprague, executive director of Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.
"I don't know what's going on in this boy's mind," she said.
Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or email@example.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.