CA Child Found Dead In Closet

.jpg photo of Mother arrested for Child Abuse
Veronica Aguilar, 39

Malnourished boy found dead in Echo Park closet was subject of earlier Child Abuse reports, LAPD says

Los Angeles, CA   –  When police arrived at his Echo Park home on Monday, the body of an 11-year-old boy was lying in a closet, wrapped in a blanket.

The boy had been dead for at least several hours, showed signs of physical abuse and appeared to be malnourished, officials said.

Authorities are now trying to determine the exact circumstances of the boy’s death and also whether officials missed warning signs of possible abuse in the home.

On Tuesday, officers with the LAPD’s Abused Child Section arrested the child’s mother, 39-year-old Veronica Aguilar, on suspicion of child endangerment resulting in death.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services received reports of possible abuse regarding the boy at least three times between 2009 and 2012, said Capt. Julian Melendez, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Juvenile Division.

He did not have details of the Police Department’s response but added that any evidence of injury or sexual abuse would have triggered an investigation by Juvenile Division detectives.  He added that he did not believe any police investigation was ever launched.

Armand Montiel, a DCFS spokesman, said in an email that “the law does not allow us to confirm or deny whether we provided any services to this child or family.”

At about 2:15 p.m. Monday, police received a call from the child’s stepfather, Jose Pinzon, who said he had come home from work and his wife, Aguilar, told him the child was dead, Melendez said.

Pinzon told officers that he saw the boy in a closet in the home in the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street and ran two blocks to a 7-Eleven on Sunset Boulevard to call police because his cellphone would not work in the house, Melendez said.

Officers met Pinzon there.  When they found the boy, he had been dead for some time and “had obvious signs of malnutrition and visible injuries,” Melendez said.

Police arrested Aguilar early Tuesday morning.  Pinzon was not arrested, Melendez said.

Aguilar has at least three other children, ages 14, 16 and 18, who were not at the home but were located and contacted by police, Melendez said.  They were taken to a police station, and the minors were released to DCFS, he said.

An autopsy on the boy’s body was expected to take place Wednesday, he said.

The child had not attended classes in the Los Angeles Unified School District since 2012 and was thought to have possibly been in Mexico for some time, Melendez said.  It was unclear whether the boy attended school in another district.

Aguilar is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The death comes as the DCSF has been grappling with several high-profile cases of children being killed after social workers received allegations of child abuse.

In 2013, Gabriel Fernandez was beaten to death, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend, even though authorities had numerous warnings of abuse in his home.

Gabriel was allegedly forced to eat cat feces, shot with BBs and locked in a cabinet at their Palmdale home.  The abuse of the 8-year-old boy went on for several months despite repeated reports to the Department of Children & Families Services and the Sheriff’s Department, records show.  The mother and her boyfriend are now both charged with murder and torture.

Four social workers have been charged with felony child abuse and falsifying records in connection with Gabriel’s killing.  Prosecutors alleged that they minimized his physical, mental and emotional injuries and allowed him to remain in the home.

More Funding Needed For Child Abuse Advocates

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic.
Far too many Dollars are spent on administration, never reaching Our Children

Child Abuse cases down, but epidemic remains

SAN ANTONIO, TX – In the past five years, confirmed cases of child abuse in Bexar County are down 28%.

The new finding comes from a report that will be released Tuesday by the Bexar County Health Collaborative on the state of health care in our area.

In addition to child abuse data, the report will include new numbers for problems like obesity and mental health.  It will be the document elected leaders will refer to when making new policies.

The fact that confirmed cases of child abuse are down proves new initiatives are working, but child advocates point out some children are still suffering in silence.

“It’s in the west side, the south side, the north side, the east side. It’s all over,” grandmother Delia Martinez says.

Thousands of children are living in dangerous households.  Martinez and her colleague Mercedes Bristol both took in their grandchildren after the situations were reported.

“CPS got involved in neglect and abuse,” Bristol says.

The women now run the support group Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

“You look at their faces.  You see the despair, the hopelessness, the fear,” Martinez says.

The Health Collaborative’s new report offers encouraging news, but child advocates caution we can’t let our guards down: the statistics only include cases that have been reported.

“There’s a large percentage of families that are going out there unserved, unrecognized, undocumented that this data doesn’t show,” the nonprofit’s director Elizabeth Lutz says.

Here’s what the data does show: child advocates are doing a better job working together, but more funding is needed to raise awareness.

“People are making a bigger effort in the nonprofit community to get the message out there – being sure that you report it,” Randy McGibeny with ChildSafe says.  “It doesn’t matter who you report to. Just make the report if you suspect that there’s child abuse.”

Meanwhile, grandparents are using grassroots efforts to get the community involved.

“We’re knocking on doors. We’re talking to people,” Martinez says. “Trying to get the different companies, organizations, nonprofits and everybody else we can think of to look at the problem and start working with us.”