The father of three young children whose mother allegedly murdered them last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and county of Los Angeles, accusing social workers and police of not intervening to protect the children before they were tragically killed, the Associated Press reports.
Erik Denton filed the lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court more than a year after his three children—3-year-old Joanna, 2-year-old Terry, and 6-month-old Sierra—were found dead on April 10 in an apartment in Reseda, the Los Angeles Times reports. Following the tragic crime, Denton’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children, Liliana Carrillo, fled to Tulare County, roughly 200 miles north of the scene, according to AP.
In a jailhouse interview, Carrillo told KGET-TV that she drowned her children because she wanted to “protect” them from alleged abuse amid a bitter custody battle.
On Monday, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón filed three murder charges against Carrillo. She is scheduled to return to court next month and is being held in jail on a more than $6 million bail, AP reports.
Denton sought custody of his three children last year, alleging that their mother’s erratic and unstable behavior and mental health issues made him fearful for their safety. He also alleged that Carrillo was delusional and had taken the kids and refused to tell him where they were.
Carrillo then filed a restraining order against Denton, claiming that he was an alcoholic who may have sexually abused their eldest child. The parents continued to trade accusations as their custody case moved through family courts in Tulare and Los Angeles counties.
Denton’s lawsuit alleged that, on at least 18 occasions, social workers and Los Angeles Police Department officers violated the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, which under state law requires them to investigate and cross-report their findings to other agencies, and ignored repeated warnings of Carrillo’s behavior, the Times reports.
“The murders of Erik’s three children would have been prevented if law enforcement officers and child welfare workers did what they were required to do by law, which is to step in and protect children who are at risk of abuse or neglect,” said David S. Casey, Jr., who is representing Denton, in a statement, AP reports.
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services declined to comment on the allegations to AP, but offered the agency’s condolences to the Denton family.
“Our mission to protect children is one we share with our partners in law enforcement and the community,” the department said in a statement, AP reports. “We remain fiercely committed to strengthening our community partnerships to enhance the safety net for children and families.”
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office said it will review the lawsuit.
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