Crime & Justice

Social workers investigated family of dead Echo Park boy 6 times

Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Phillip Browning said an Echo Park boy allegedly neglected by his mother had been reported to child welfare authorities in the past.
Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Phillip Browning said an Echo Park boy allegedly neglected by his mother had been reported to child welfare authorities in the past.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Listen to story

01:04
Download this story 0MB

An 11-year-old Echo Park boy found dead in his mother's closet last week had been the subject of at least four reports to child welfare authorities, the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services said Monday.

The agency last investigated Yonatan Aguilar's family in 2012 and found no cause for ongoing intervention, DCFS Director Philip Browning said in a statement. The family had been referred to DCFS at least two other times, beginning in 2002, in incidents unrelated to the boy. 

While Browning indicated the agency's investigation into the case is ongoing, "our preliminary review of these investigations reveals that some good social work practices were utilized," he said. 

Browning said social workers consulted with "outside professionals connected to the family" while investigating abuse or neglect in the home, including doctors, a hospital social worker, a school counselor, teachers, a therapist, a school coach, and a special education teacher, "all of whom indicated Yonatan was receiving proper care." 

The boy was found dead, wrapped in a blanket in a closet in his mother's home on August 22. His stepfather had reported his death to police, who found the boy's body.

According to the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, Yonatan died "due to neglect and showed signs of severe malnutrition." The D.A. has charged the boy's mother, Veronica Aguilar, with murder and child abuse.

Aguilar is due in court to enter a plea to the charges September 8. She's being held at L.A. County's Century Regional Detention Facility in lieu of $2 million bail. 

The Department of Children and Family Services came under heavy scrutiny three years ago after the May 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. The agency had been warned the boy was being abused several times, but did not intervene to save him. The social workers in charge of his case have been charged with child abuse and falsifying records and have all pled not-guilty to the charges.