For three years in Los Angeles, a young boy was hidden in locked closets where he was sedated by liquid sleeping aids that were given to him by his mother. When asked by people where her son was, Veronica Aguilar told them that he had been placed in an institution in Mexico, as court records detail. Three of her other children, two of whom slept on a bed just outside the closet door where there brother was locked, knew the truth and said they were forbidden by their mother to say anything.
— Gary and Shannon (@GaryandShannon) September 20, 2016
The life of 11-year-old Yonatan Daniel Aguilar came to an end in August, after which police discovered his malnourished 34-pound body that had been battered, in the bedroom closet of the family’s home in Echo Park.
The details of Yonatan’s confinement were obtained by the Los Angeles Times, laid out in documents from Los Angeles County Juvenile Court this past week. The records indicate how school officials, police, social workers, and therapists lost track of Yonatan, despite allegations made earlier of abuse. Questions were also raised as to what could have been done to save the boy.
Police detectives investigating Aguilar’s case also share about the mother’s efforts to hide the boy and how they had been so effective, that Jose Pinzon, Yonatan’s stepfather, did not know that he lived with them.
The remaining children and Pinzon were placed in a room together by detective Moses Castillo on the day of Yonatan’s death, for the purpose of seeing their reactions. While the detectives and social workers stood by, Pinzon “immediately confronts the children that he had no idea that Yonatan was living in the house the whole time they were there,” the records state.
“How can you do this to me?” he asked.
“You were always at work so you didn’t know,” One of the children replied.
The boy’s stepfather then began crying.
“I carry a photo of him in my wallet,” he said, according to the records. “I’m the only one that cared for him.”
The Los Angeles Times outlines the course of events that led to Pinzon discovering that not only was his stepson dead, but had been living with him and his family the entire time.
“On Aug. 22, Aguilar told Pinzon that Yonatan had died and asked him to care for her other children. He assumed she would be going to Mexico to bury the boy. Instead, she led him to the bedroom closet. According to authorities, Yonatan’s body was wrapped in a blanket and covered in pressure sores from lying on the tile floor. There was foam in his nose and medicinal cups of pink and red liquid near his body. He was going bald.”
Aguilar, who is facing murder charges, has pleaded not guilty and her attorney could not be reached for comment. The 39-year-old confessed to Pinzon after showing him the lifeless body of her son.
“I took care of the problem by ruining my life.”
Pinzon then reportedly ran out of the house to a nearby 7-Eleven to call the authorities.
Following his death, The Times petitioned the court to release County Department of Children and Family Services records, as well as the police and coroner reports in regards to Yonatan. The partially redacted records of more than 160 pages were released by Michael Levenas, the presiding LA County Juvenile Court judge, who states that they “shed light on what was going on in the family’s home” and why the boy came to be left in his mother’s care.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) September 15, 2016
The final reports about Yonatan came in spring of 2012, when teachers of the boy made two separate reports about him arriving at school with a black eye and that he was hungry and hoarding food. Prior to this, Yonatan’s family had been reported in six claims to the DCFS alleging possible abuse or neglect. Yonatan’s risk of abuse at home had been marked as “high” on four occasions from 2009 to 2012. Social workers reportedly refrained from opening a case saying that the allegations of abuse were “inconclusive or unfounded.”
Allegations were also brought to the attention of police, yet no investigation was ever launched. Yonatan was reportedly autistic.
[Featured Image by Mat Hayward/Getty Images]