Stepdad didn’t know special needs boy nicknamed ‘Chubby’ was kept in closet for years, starved until he withered to death: Court

Although he lived in a small one-bedroom home in Los Angeles with his wife and children, a stepfather said he had no idea his wife kept her 11-year-old son locked away in a closet for three years.

NBC Los Angeles reports that during the preliminary hearing of a murder trial in connection with the death of a little boy nicknamed “Chubby,” Pinzon Avila testified that he thought of the boy, Yonatan Daniel Aguilar, as his own son and would have never stood for hiding the child in a closet.

The man claimed that wife, 42-year-old Veronica Aguilar, told him years ago that she sent the boy to Mexico due to behavioral issues and hyperactivity.

Aguilar is currently on trial, accused of killing the boy after allegedly hiding him in a small closet in a home off of the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street in Echo Park. Avila testified that Aguilar told him she didn’t think she was getting the help she needed for her son because she was undocumented, and decided to send him back to Mexico, where she thought he would get the proper treatment.

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Police found Yonatan’s body inside the home on August 22, 2016. Los Angeles police Officer Abel Munoz testified that he was the responding officer to the scene after Avila went to a nearby convenience store and called 911.

When the officer arrived, Avila was “was hysterical, he was panting, he was hyperventilating, he was panicked.” Avila reportedly told Munoz that he came home to find Aguilar behaving bizarrely, claiming her “life was over.”

Aguilar allegedly admitted that the little boy had died and that she kept him in a closet for three years, a closet so tiny that boy couldn’t even stretch out his legs.

Avila testified that he worked up to 18 hours a day and would come home and sleep on floor so he wouldn’t wake his family, and never had a clue that Yonatan was nearby, isolated inside the small closet.

When Munoz found the boy, he was “cold and rigid,” and appeared to be around three years younger than his actual age. The once “short, chubby, playful” boy was so emaciated that his knees were the biggest part of his legs, according to  Dr. Janet Arnold-Clark, who also testified. Yonatan was severely malnourished and had pressure sores on his body.

“He was deprived of food for a very long time,” Arnold-Clark said. “Two inches in growth in 4 1/2 years is really marked and concerning, and the only real explanation of that is that he had been malnourished for several years.”

Food Hoarding and Neglect

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services received several complaints between 2009 and 2012, mainly after teachers reported they suspected abuse in the boy’s home. The reports were marked “high” four times, according to the outlet.

The first report of abuse came from a school nurse who said Yonatan had scratches on his face. The boy, a 4-year-old at the time, told police his mother became angry and scratched him. Social workers ultimately decided that the abuse allegations were “inconclusive” after the suspect denied harming her son. Further, no police investigation was launched.

In 2011, someone called the county’s child abuse hotline and alleged that the boy and one of his siblings had been neglected. In 2012, Yonatan reportedly came to school with a black eye but had differing accounts of what happened to him. Teachers reported the incident to DCFS. Police were also contacted but according to the outlet, no reports were made.

Veronica Aguilar [Photo: Los Angeles Police Department via AP]
Four days later, another teacher contacted social services after Yonatan came to school extremely dirty and hungry. The teacher said the little boy grabbed as much food as he could find in the cafeteria, then brought it back to his classroom and hoarded it, according to case documents.

Although records indicated that the case was “high risk,” DCFS did not open a case and marked the allegations as “unfounded.”

After 2012, calls to DCFS stopped. Aguilar allegedly told her husband and school officials that she sent the boy to Mexico for treatment.

One of the boy’s siblings is expected to testify in court this week. Meanwhile, Aguilar has been jailed in lieu of $2 million bail since her arrest in 2016.

Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

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[Feature Photo: Yonatan Aguilar/Handout]