Courtroom docs element bitter custody battle earlier than Reseda mother allegedly killed three younger youngsters
Erik Denton was supposed to see his three young children last Sunday, one day every two weeks, when he was allowed to be with them.
Three-year-old Joanna, her two-year-old brother Terry, and her six-month-old sister Sierra had lived with their mother – Denton’s ex-girlfriend – in the Los Angeles Reseda division. Fearing for their safety, her father applied to the court for custody on March 1, claiming that her mother, Liliana Carrillo, was delusional and took the children with her and refused to tell him where they were.
Carrillo, in turn, filed an injunction against him, claiming Denton was an alcoholic who may have sexually abused his oldest child.
When the case was settled through family courts in Tulare and Los Angeles counties, the parents exchanged allegations on dozens of pages of documents. The police were called, social workers were consulted, alarming text messages and Facebook posts were saved as legal exhibits.
A week ago, a judge in Los Angeles agreed to move the case to Tulare County, where a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
It would be too late.
The children were found dead by their maternal grandmother in their Los Angeles apartment on Saturday. Carrillo was her alleged killer and was arrested in Tulare County, nearly 200 miles north of the scene.
LA detectives seek extradition while the coroner’s office performs autopsies on the children. Captain Chris Waters, who oversees the LAPD’s youth department, said the investigation was still ongoing. She expressed condolences and said the deaths were particularly tragic during National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Denton and attorneys who represented Carrillo and Denton in their custody proceedings did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.
A memorial with photos, candles, flowers and balloons paid tribute to the siblings as their father tried to understand why his daughters and son had remained in their mother’s care despite several red flags.
“I fear for the physical and mental well-being of my children,” Denton had written in court records.
The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services, the largest child protection agency in the country, was involved in the case. In a statement, the department declined to comment on her role but said she “joins the community in mourning.”
“Erik’s hands were bound by law,” said Dr. Teri Miller, a Los Angeles ambulance doctor who is Denton’s cousin, helped him obtain custody of the children. She told the Los Angeles Times, “He jumped through every hoop in front of him to get the kids back safely.”
Denton’s court records report Carrillo’s postpartum depression after giving birth to her middle child. She started therapy but gave up. She allegedly treated herself with marijuana. In texts and social media posts, she said things like “I wish I never had children” and threatened to commit suicide.
Carrillo also believed she was “solely responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, Denton wrote, and she believed that Porterville, the Tulare County town where he, Carrillo and the children lived, was home to a “giant sex trading ring ” be.
At the end of February, their behavior deteriorated, as evidenced by court documents. During a trip in the park, her eldest daughter had fallen and landed on her groin and later said it hurt. Carrillo believed the pain was from Denton harassing her, a claim he denied. He said she was examined by a doctor who found no evidence of abuse. Carrillo said the investigation was not thorough enough.
On February 25, Carrillo allegedly tried to leave home with the children in the middle of the night. Denton called 911 and Carrillo didn’t think the officer who answered was actually a member of the police department. She threatened to take the children to Mexico, where she has a family.
The next day, a social worker contacted Denton and said she was concerned about Carrillo’s state of mind. She asked him to seek legal intervention, and Denton filed custody files in Tulare County on March 1.
“I am very concerned about my partner,” wrote Denton, “and want to give her the help she needs to recover from this mental break and become stable. I want their interactions with the children to be safe and healthy. “
Carrillo filed for an injunction in LA County 12 days later. Through the courts, Denton and Carrillo agreed to swap Denton’s days to see the children – a couple of hours every other Sunday.
The last Sunday should only be his second visit to the children according to the new schedule.
Instead, he spent it in mourning.
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