A mother accused of murdering her disabled son allegedly told her husband she’d sent the 10-year-old boy to Mexico but instead she kept him in a closet for three years and starved the child to death.
These and other allegations were leveled against 42-year-old Veronica Aguilar during a June 17 preliminary court hearing reported on by ABC7, in which the boy’s mother stands accused of causing his death and staging a long-term cover-up of the crime.
The woman was reportedly so successful with the ruse that her husband Jose Pinzon had no idea Yonatan Aguilar was hidden in a closet too small for him to stretch out his legs in the couple’s tiny Los Angeles house for years, suffering terrible abuse.
Los Angeles Police Department Detective Abel Munoz was cited in the ABC7 report as saying in court Monday that when Aguilar told Pinzon in August 2016 that the boy had died, the stepfather was left “hysterical, panting, hyperventilating, and panicked.”
— Kim Baldonado (@KimNBCLA) August 25, 2016
Yonatan was found dead in August 2016 in what Los Angeles police have called one of the worst instances of child neglect and abuse they have ever witnessed.
“It’s one of the worst cases I’ve seen in my career,” said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Moses Castillo, speaking to local TV station KCBS.
Citing Department of Children and Family Services records, the Los Angeles Times reported that on the day of Yonatan’s death, Det. Castillo put Pinzon and Yonatan’s siblings together in a room “to see the reaction.”
Pinzon “immediately confronts the children that he had no idea that minor [Yonatan] was living in the house the whole time they were there,” according to the report.
“How can you do this to me?” he asked.
One of the children replied, “You were always at work, so you didn’t know.”
Pinzon then reportedly started crying and said, “I carry a photo of him in my wallet. I’m the only one that cared for him.”
ABC7 reported that Pinzon worked 18 hours a day and he slept on the floor away from the children and his wife.
According to the report, Aguilar was in the United States illegally.
‘Very Gaunt, Frail-Looking Child’
According to the LA Times, on Aug. 22, Aguilar told Pinzon that the boy had died and led him to the bedroom closet to show him the shocking truth.
Authorities cited in the report said Yonatan’s body was wrapped in a blanket and covered in sores. There was foam in his nose and he was going bald.
Police cited in the LA Times report said Pinzon ran out of the house to a nearby 7-Eleven, where he called 911.
When detectives found Yonatan in a closet, he weighed only 34 pounds.
“I saw a very gaunt, frail-looking child, who at that time to me looked like a 5, 6, or 7-year-old boy,” said Munoz in court Monday, according to ABC7.
Munoz was one of the law enforcement officers who responded to the Echo Park residence where Yonatan’s body was kept in a closet. The LA Times reported one of the officers grabbed the boy’s arm and shook it, but found the boy unresponsive and his arm stiff.
Aguilar reportedly claimed to have sent Yonatan—a special education student with behavioral issues—away to Mexico in 2012. She reportedly claimed he would be able to get better treatment there for his problems. But instead, Aguilar stands accused of keeping him hidden in the closet and drugging him with alcohol-based cold medicine.
According to Fox6, between 2009 and 2013, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services received four complaints that the boy was suffering abuse, and classified Yonatan’s risk of abuse as “high.”
But whenever investigators visited the family, they said they found that conditions they encountered did not warrant any further investigation.
A DCFS official was quoted by Fox6 as saying “everyone interacting with the child and his family thought the child was in a safe environment.”
According to KTLA, Aguilar’s three older children were reportedly all aware that their mother had kept their youngest brother imprisoned in the closet.
The stepfather was reportedly the only one who was not aware that Yonatan was being subjected to horrific abuse.
Aguilar faces 15 years to life in jail on each count if convicted, and has been in jail in lieu of $2 million bail since her arrest in 2016, according to reports.
The preliminary hearing is set to continue for several days.