Reports of abuse of Echo Park boy later found dead in closet were investigated, DCFS says

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
A makeshift memorial was set up for Yonatan Aguilar, 11, after he was found dead in a closet at his Echo Park home.
A makeshift memorial was set up for Yonatan Aguilar, 11, after he was found dead in a closet at his Echo Park home.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said it investigated several reports over a span of 10 years against an Echo Park family whose son was found dead in a closet on Aug. 22.

Yonatan Aguilar's body was found in a closet of the home in the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street after his stepfather and mother's husband called 911. The boy died due to neglect and had suffered from severe malnutrition, authorities said.

His mother, 39-year-old Veronica Aguilar, was arrested and charged with murder and child abuse resulting in death.

DCFS was granted an order to address issues related to Yonatan's death on Monday. In a statement from Director Philip L. Browning, it said the department received six referrals about the family from 2002 until 2012. Four of those between 2009 and 2012 involved Yonatan.

Browning said the department is investigating the death of Yonatan and reviewing its previous involvement with the family. The department's preliminary review showed that none of the referrals resulted in an open case that would have required supervision and more services.

Browning said social workers from the department consulted outside professionals connected to the family, including doctors, hospital social workers, school counselors, therapists, coaches and teachers, all of whom said Yonatan appeared to be receiving proper care.

As required by law, each referral that alleged physical abuse was also submitted through the Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Report System, which ensures an investigation by law enforcement. Each investigation ended with no crime having been committed, Browning said.

"On behalf of the Department of Children and Family Services, we extend our condolences to Yonatan's family and those affected by his loss," he said in the statement.

According to the lead investigator, the 11-year old boy was the size of a 6-year old when the body was recovered from the closet.

Members of Aguilar's family told police that she kept Yonatan hidden and they had thought the child was staying in Mexico with someone else.

LAPD found no record of Yonatan's enrollment in school for the last four years.

LAPD has put a hold on the results of the autopsy until toxicology tests are complete.

Monday, investigators interviewed members of the Aguilar household for a second time.

Yonatan's mother is due in court on Sept. 8 and remains in jail on $2 million bail. If convicted as charged, she faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.