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Mother of boy who was found dead in closet of Echo Park home is charged with murder

Veronica Aguilar pleaded not guilty to charges in the death of her son.
Veronica Aguilar pleaded not guilty to charges in the death of her son.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The mother of an 11-year-old boy who was found dead in the closet of an Echo Park home was charged with murder Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Veronica Aguilar, 39, faces one count each of murder and child abuse resulting in death.

Aguilar’s son, Yonatan Daniel Aguilar, was lying in a closet, wrapped in a blanket, when police arrived at the family’s home in the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street on Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors said the boy’s body showed clear signs of neglect and malnourishment to a degree that the murder charge was warranted.

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During a brief appearance at a downtown L.A. courtroom, Aguilar stood expressionless in the defendants’ area. Through a Spanish-language interpreter, she delayed entering a plea until Sept. 8. A judge ordered she be held in lieu of $2 million bail.

Yonatan had been dead for at least several hours, had visible injuries indicative of physical abuse and appeared to be malnourished when his body was discovered, said Capt. Julian Melendez, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Juvenile Division.

Several law enforcement sources said the boy was severely underweight with festering wounds and healed injuries that showed signs of long-term abuse.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services received reports of possible abuse regarding the boy at least three times between 2009 and 2012, Melendez said.

He did not have details of the Police Department’s response, but added that any evidence of injury or sexual abuse would have triggered an investigation by Juvenile Division detectives. He added that he did not believe any police investigation was ever launched.

Armand Montiel, a DCFS spokesman, said the department was prohibited by law from confirming or denying whether it provided services to the child or family.

Montiel said information about the agency’s interaction with the boy’s family will be released at a later date.

Police arrived at the home Monday afternoon after receiving a call from the boy’s stepfather, Jose Pinzon, who said he had come home from work and was told by his wife, Aguilar, that the child was dead. Pinzon told officers that he saw the boy’s body and ran to a 7-Eleven on Sunset Boulevard to call police.

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Pinzon was not arrested.

Aguilar was arrested Tuesday. If convicted as charged, she faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

An autopsy on the boy was not yet completed on Thursday afternoon, said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes and @haileybranson


UPDATES:

5:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from Veronica Aguilar’s court appearance.

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This article was originally published at 3:05 p.m.


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