Family Of Echo Park Boy Found Dead In Closet Was Reported For Possible Abuse 6 Times
Earlier this month, a 39-year-old Echo Park woman was arrested after her husband led authorities to the body of her 11-year-old son, wrapped in a blanket in the closet of their home. The boy showed signs of malnutrition and abuse. Now, it turns out that on six separate occasions, social workers had been tipped off to potential abuse in the family.
The little boy's named was Yonatan Daniel Aguilar, the L.A. Times reports. Yonatan attended special education classes, had appointments with a school psychologist and may have had behavior issues, according to Philip L. Browning, director of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
In 2012, two different teachers got in touch with the DCFS to express concern about Yonatan, only days apart from one another. Social workers looked into the case, and because one of the teachers said the boy had a black eye, so did the police. They determined everything was fine, and Yonatan said he suffered the black eye after he fell on a pile of rocks while playing outdoors.
There were other reports, too, in 2011 and 2009. In 2009, the school contacted the police about possible abuse. The police interviewed school staff, then decided not to conduct a full investigation. A pair of reports were also made in 2002, before Yonatan was born, regarding an older sibling.
Browning said he has found no problems with the social workers in the case, who conducted all the proper interviews and followed procedures. Plus, the LAPD was also involved in some of the reports. "There was not just one set of eyes here," he told the Times.
After the last two reports in 2012, no further reports were made. It seems that at that point, Yonatan no longer attended an LAUSD school. Browning said that his department does not have the authority to check up on a family just because there were previous reports. A new report has to be made. Relatives of the boy's mother, Veronica Aguilar, said she kept the boy hidden, to the point where they believed the child was in the care of someone in Mexico, ABC 7 reports.
Browning was also quick to disassociate this case with that of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend in 2013. Four Los Angeles County social workers were criminally charged with child abuse and falsifying public records in April regarding Fernandez's death. Browning said that the social workers in the Aguilar case talked to "outside professionals connected to the family," including doctors, hospital staff and school staff, "all of whom indicated Yonatan was receiving proper care," KPCC reports.
Yonatan Aguilar's body was discovered on August 22, after the boy's stepfather contacted police and told them his wife had informed him of his stepson's death. He called police from a convenience store, then led them to the body. Veronica Aguilar has been charged with her son's murder, and could face up to 15 years if convicted as charged, according to a release from the L.A. County DA's office.