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Man charged with killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son

Man charged with killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son
Josue Rey Maldonado in an undated family photo.

A year after 2-year-old Josue Rey Maldonado was bludgeoned to death, his mother's boyfriend has been charged with murder and child abuse, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Samuel Aguilar, 23, faces five felony counts, including murder, assault on a child and two counts of child abuse, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The boy's mother, Jessica Cereceres, has also been charged with two felony counts of child abuse, prosecutors said.

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The couple were living together in Signal Hill and caring for Cereceres' two sons, Josue and a 1-year-old boy, when on Aug. 10, 2014, Josue was taken to a hospital with severe injuries.

Josue arrived at a Long Beach hospital with bruising "all over his body," including on his hairline, face, ears, abdomen, chest, arms and legs, according to a petition filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court to remove a surviving sibling from the mother's custody.

Before Josue turned up in the hospital with severe injuries, his mother had twice been reported to authorities for putting her children's welfare in jeopardy.

Six months before Josue died, Long Beach police officers were called to his parents' home after the boy's aunt alerted authorities to possible neglect. The aunt suspected that Josue's mother might be too intoxicated on drugs or alcohol to care for her son.

Officers determined she showed no signs of intoxication and left after 22 minutes.

About a year before his death, county social workers investigated a complaint that Josue had been abandoned, that his biological father had used methamphetamine while living there at the time, and that the boy had been present during a domestic-violence incident involving a gun, the report said.

The inquiry by department officials found substantial evidence of neglect by both parents, according to the report, and a petition was submitted to a judge.

But child welfare workers decided to leave him in the custody of his mother as she received court-ordered services to improve her parenting skills. The boy's father, who was incarcerated at the time of Josue's death, was named as the key danger to the child's welfare, and Cereceres was deemed a "non-offending parent," county officials said.

While investigating the fatal injuries to Josue, officials found that his younger brother had also suffered physical abuse, prosecutors said.

Aguilar is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, and if convicted, he faces up to life in prison. Cereceres, whose arraignment was continued until Aug. 27,  could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years and eight months in prison if convicted.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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