LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Eleven-year old Yonatan Daniel Aguilar weighed just 34 pounds when he was found dead, wrapped in a blanket, lying on a hard tile floor inside a bedroom closet in this small Echo Park home. Sources close to the investigation told us the closet was so small, Yonatan couldn’t stretch out his legs.
According to juvenile court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times the boy, who had been diagnosed with autism, was often locked away in closets for three years and sedated with liquid sleep medication, apparently to keep him quiet.
Investigators believe even the boy’s step father who lived in the home didn’t know the boy was living there.
CBSLA’s Randy Paige asked Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning on Thursday: “How could someone live in that house and not know a little boy was there?”
“Well, I think that’s what’s so puzzling,” Browning said.
Previous Stories: Yonatan Aguilar Case
Four years before, when reports of possible child abuse were reported, Yonatan’s mother Veronica Aguilar, who was a volunteer at the school and attended parenting classes, was able to convince his teachers, counselors, coaches, medical staff and social workers that her son was safe in her home. Then, when Yonatan stopped showing up for school, his mother told people he had gone to live in an institution in Mexico.
According to the court documents, Yonatan’s three siblings and his mother were the only ones in on the secret.
“I think there was a façade that occurred that took everyone in, including law enforcement,” Browning said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, redacted court records indicate Aguilar effectively disappeared in 2012 after he was seen at school with a black eye and school officials said he was hoarding food.
Aguilar told the boy’s therapist that Yonatan lived with his maternal grandmother until age 3, and he was likely deprived of food during that time and developed the habit of hoarding food, according to the records cited by The Times.
Soon after, the boy was pulled out of school and wasn’t seen as the family repeatedly moved.
Officials with county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) — which had responded to six reports of possible abuse or neglect involving the family from 2009 to 2012 and marked the boy’s risk of abuse “high” four times — had no further contact, according to The Times.
After claiming allegations of abuse were inconclusive or unfounded, social workers never formally opened a case, according to the records cited by the paper.
At one point, Aguilar told Jose Pinzon, the boy’s stepfather, that he had died. Pinzon had been told previously by Aguilar that she sent Yonatan to Mexico to live with family, and he hadn’t seen the boy in years, The Times reported.
Aguilar led Pinzon to a closet in their home on Aug. 22 and found Yonatan’s emaciated body described as being covered in pressure sores from the tile floor. There was foam in his nose and medicinal cups of pink and red liquid near his balding body, according to the records obtained by The Times.
Pinzon then ran to a 7-Eleven and called police.
Aguilar, 39, is now charged with murder and child abuse causing death. She remains jailed on $2 million bail.