Father charged with attacking his young children in Lancaster, killing 2

KABC logo
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Man charged in beating, stabbing death of his 2 children in Lancaster
A man was charged with attacking his three young children and killing two of them in Lancaster, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

LANCASTER, Calif. (KABC) -- A man was charged with attacking his three young children and killing two of them in Lancaster, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Prospero Guadalupe Serna was charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault of a child under 8 years of age causing death and one count of child abuse.

His arraignment in a Lancaster courtroom was postponed until Nov. 30, but Serna was ordered to remain jailed without bail. The criminal complaint includes the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with allegations that he personally used a sharp object during the commission of the crime, personally inflicted great bodily injury on a child under five years old, and that he has a prior conviction from 2017 for unlawfully causing a fire of a structure or forest land.

The investigation began Saturday just before midnight when the mother of the children called 911 for help, saying her children were being harmed.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office alleges the deadly attack happened when Serna was home with his four children and their mother.

Responding deputies found two of the children, identified as Ziasia and Najila Serna, beaten and stabbed to death. Ziasia was 7 years old and Najila was 3.

The other two children, one who was injured, were found hiding in the home. All of the children were under the age of 10.

If convicted as charged, Serna will face a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The night that the department responded, video from the scene showed a physical struggle to detain Serna, requiring the effort of several deputies to pin him to the ground and place him in custody.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies took a man into custody after responding to a report of child abuse in Lancaster on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.
Don Luis Meza

"It's extremely difficult," Lt. Daniel Vizcarra with the Sheriff's Department said on Sunday. "This is traumatizing for everybody who's involved. All the deputies who responded, all the parties involved, the investigators, everyone."

Meanwhile, a neighbor who identified herself only as Stacy told Eyewitness News she heard the mother of the children yelling two nights before the deaths.

"A couple of nights before, the lady was screaming for help ... running, saying that, 'He's going to kill me. She was just yelling it. It's a big complex, so she was just running screaming, 'He's going to kill me.'"

Like many people saddened by the children's death, Stacy's heart breaks for the two children who lost their lives as well for the two children who survived.

"For me, it's very emotional because I have a lot of grandbabies, and my daughter ... she was sad too because she was having a baby shower that day," said Stacy. "My other daughter, she couldn't leave our building because there's yellow tape everywhere. It still sickens me it saddens me."

The county Department of Children and Family Services declined to say if the family has been investigated for possible child abuse in the past, citing confidentiality laws.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.