A 5-year-old District of Columbia girl was in critical condition last night at Children's Hospital after detectives found her infested with maggots in a Southwest apartment, police said.

The child's mother, Laura Jackson, 26, of 203 N St. SW. was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court yesterday and formally charged with cruelty to children.

Officials at the hospital said the child is suffering from extreme dehydration, and is in the intensive care.

"This is about the worse case of child neglect I've ever heard of," Lt. James Jenkins, an 18-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department said yesterday.

According to police the child was found accidentally Monday night after Jackson called sex squad detectives to her home to complain that a boy in the neighborhood had molested her 8-year-old daughter. While at the apartment, the detectives found the 5-year-old lying dazed in a bare crib. They called in youth division detectives and notified the homicide squad.

"The child had a diaper on it and it looked like it hadn't been changed for weeks or months - we couldn't tell," said one youth division officer.

Police said the child's body from stomach to thighs was red and full of sores and said that doctors concluded the child also was starved.

Jackson, who is unemployed, was arrested Monday night and arraigned yesterday before Judge John D. Fauntleroy. A preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 3. She was released to the custody of Bonabond, an agency that supervises defendants who are released on personal recognizance prior to trial.

The father of the children apparently lives in another part of the District of Columbia, police said.