COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The 4-year-old boy found dead in a burning building Tuesday was so malnourished that police assumed they'd discovered a 9-month-old baby, prosecutors said Thursday.
Mother Alyssa Garcia, 27, is accused of regularly locking Manuel "Manny" Aguilar in a back room with urine and feces, denying him food and slapping him.
When the boy died July 29, Garcia — who has six children including Manny and week-old twins — decided to hide Manny's body in an abandoned building because "she didn't want DCFS to take away her kids again," Assistant State's Attorney Jamie Santini said during a bond hearing Thursday.
On Tuesday, Garcia, her 17-year-old boyfriend and his brother, 19-year-old Christian Camarena, wrapped Manny in a blue blanket, drove him to an abandoned home in the 1400 block of West Marquette Road and set his body on fire using lighter fluid, prosecutors said.
Police responding to an arson call spotted the trio running away from the building, according to arrest report.
According to the report, Garcia asked police, "What if something bad happened, and you didn't mean for it to happen?"
Garcia and Christian Camarena are charged with concealing a death and attempted arson. Garcia's 17-year-old boyfriend was charged as a juvenile.
During the course of their investigation, police learned from witnesses that Garcia regularly kept Manny in a back room of her Englewood home in the 6400 block of South Wolcott Avenue, prosecutors said.
The room smelled like urine and feces, witnesses said, because the boy often hid his feces to avoid a beating for defecating on the floor. He was often kept completely naked and was so thin that his ribs were clearly visible, prosecutors said.
Witnesses rarely saw the boy eat, but did report that Garcia gave him water. According to prosecutors, Garcia often beat Manny with a shoe and told her other children not to let him out of the back room, even when he screamed, "Let me out!"
Garcia often left her children at home without food during the day, according to a woman who lived downstairs from the family in the 6300 block of South Wolcott Avenue.
The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she sometimes left extra portions for them when she cooked for her own kids.
"I tried to keep to myself and mind my own business, but after that happened I had to curse her out," the woman said. "I had to say, 'You can't do that no more. You can't do that to your children.'"
Unlike her other three children, Garcia never let Manny out of the narrow two-story house, the woman said. On the rare occasions that she saw him, he looked tired and emaciated.
"He didn't really talk much," she said. "Sometimes he said he was hungry."
It's not clear why Garcia allegedly mistreated Manny.
Veronica Resa, a spokeswoman with DCFS, said the department took away Garcia's children in 2012, the same year Garcia was convicted of child endangerment for leaving her children alone in a car, and sentenced to 18 months probation.
DCFS gave the children back to Garcia in 2015 after she "complied with all DCFS requests" and attended parenting classes, Resa said. As of Thursday, Garcia's five surviving children were in DCFS custody; the infant twins remain at the hospital for monitoring.
According to prosecutors, Manny was found dead July 29. One of Garcia's older children took the boy's pulse before Garcia and her boyfriend bathed Manny, dressed him, wrapped him in a blue blanket and placed him in a playroom, Santini said.
The couple later moved Manny's body to the trunk of a car, where Garcia used multiple tree-shaped air fresheners to mask the smell, Santini said.
On Thursday outside the home on Wolcott, a pungent smell remained.
About 9:30 p.m. Tuesday — four days after Manny was found dead — Garcia and the two brothers brought Manny's body to the abandoned building and lit it on fire with lighter fluid, prosecutors said.
Neighbors called 911, and police arrested the trio nearby, smelling like lighter fluid, court records show. Police found Manny inside the building, partially burned, and assumed the boy was a 9-month-old baby based on his small size.
On Thursday afternoon, a group of older men stood on the sidewalk exchanging rumors and shaking their heads in disbelief. In the middle was S. Taylor, who declined to say his full first name, selling snow cones and Red Hots from behind a plastic table.
Taylor said his "intuition was sparked" Tuesday morning, when he saw Garcia and her boyfriend walk out of their house with a large bundled blanket and bring it to their car. Garcia's oldest son followed them holding two bags of laundry, he said.
When the news erupted across the block Wednesday, "it clicked," he said.
"I've been here 41 years, and I've seen a lot of things come and go on this block," Taylor said. "But to do that to a kid like that — you don't mess with the kids, man. Not the kids."
Taylor had only seen Manny once, he said, at a block party about a year earlier. He described him as a "frail little boy."
"I'm a grandfather, and hearing about it just makes me sick as hell," Taylor said, looking down and shaking his head. "It just hurts you to your core. You can't tolerate that s---."
The news was especially shocking, Taylor said, because "99 percent of us didn't even know that boy was in there."
Randy Williams, a retired deacon who lives with his elderly mother across the street from Garcia's house, said he often saw the mother fighting with her boyfriend or cursing out the children. But he never thought something so horrible was going on behind closed doors.
"We have a lot of stuff going on on this block — but to hear something like that has been going on under our nose this whole time is just ridiculous," he said. "The devil's been on this block real strong lately."
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet identified Manny's cause of death. Toxicology reports and a radiology exam are pending. If the boy's death is a ruled a homicide, Garcia, her boyfriend and Camarena could face additional charges.
Garcia was previously convicted of endangering a child in 2012 and sentenced to 18 months probation. Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil on Thursday set Garcia's bail at $2 million.
In the 2012 case, Garcia left three of her children alone in a car because "she was busy with her boyfriend," Santini said. Neighbors found the children when the oldest child began knocking on doors.
According to her public defender, Garcia has six children including Manny and the week-old twins. The other children are aged 6, 8 and 10. Garcia works at Olive Garden and was previously employed by Chili's and Dunkin' Donuts, the attorney said.
DCFS is investigating Manny's death, including allegations of abuse and neglect, Resa said. In February 2016, the department investigated allegations of abuse and neglect involving one of Garcia's older children. The report was "unfounded," Resa said.
According to prosecutors, Christian Camarena has no criminal background. His bail was set at $1 million.
Camarena's brother was charged separately as a juvenile with attempted arson and concealing a homicide. He was ordered held in custody Thursday.
Mom feared losing other kids after neglected 4-year-old's death: ProsecutorsGrace Wong , Duaa Eldeib and Deanese Williams-Harris Contact Reporters Chicago Tribune
For about a year, the frail 4-year-old boy was kept in a back room with the family’s bicycles and the putrid smell of his own urine, prosecutors said in court on Thursday.
His screams of “Let me out” were either ignored or met with a beating, witnesses told police.
When Manuel died, his body allegedly was placed in a playroom, then dumped inside the trunk of a car, and finally, days later, discarded in the basement of a nearby abandoned building, where it was wrapped in a blanket and set on fire Tuesday night.
“Based on their initial observations of the body of the 4-year-old, investigators believed that they had found the body of an infant that was approximately nine months of age,” Cook County assistant state’s attorney Jamie Santini told Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil on Thursday.
The boy’s mother, 27-year-old Alyssa Garcia, along with a 17-year-old boy and another friend of the mother, have been charged with concealing the boy's death.
Garcia’s head hung low at a court hearing Thursday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. The judge ordered her held in lieu of $2 million bail. Bail was set at $1 million for the 19-year-old friend Christian Camarena. The 17-year-old is being charged as a juvenile.
The state Department of Children and Family Services had prior contact with Garcia, who recently gave birth to premature twins. In 2012, she was sentenced to 18 months supervision for endangering the life of a child.
Chicago police said they responded to a call of arson at an abandoned building in Englewood late Tuesday. A witness at the scene said that three people had gone into the building with a container of lighter fluid. Police said they took Garcia and the two teens into custody after they saw them running away from the back of the abandoned building.
Firefighters were called to put out the fire in the basement, where they found Manuel’s body in a smoldering blanket and a container of lighter fluid near his body. The cause of death is still under investigation.
Santini spoke in court of the horrific abuse Manuel allegedly endured before his death. He was beaten with a shoe, given a black eye and was “so skinny that his ribs were showing,” Santini said. Witnesses told police they would rarely see him eat, and there were days when he was not fed, Santini said.
Manuel often would hide his feces in the room in fear of Garcia beating him, Santini said. The boy would have to knock on the door to be allowed to go to the bathroom and was often completely naked because he would urinate on himself, Santini said.
“Witness stated that Manny didn’t like being in the back room, and he would scream, ‘let me out,’” Santini said.
DCFS had previously opened two separate investigations into Garcia, at one point taking protective custody of her four children.
Prosecutors said when Garcia saw that her son wasn’t breathing on July 29, she didn’t seek medical attention for him because she feared DCFS would take her kids away again.
One of his siblings checked for a heartbeat and pulse and determined that he had died, Santini said.
Garcia then allegedly called the 17-year-old into the room, and together they washed Manuel’s body, put clothes on him and wrapped him in a blue towel. Then, prosecutors allege, they put him in the playroom and told the other children not to enter.
When they later moved the body to the trunk of the car, Garcia tried to cover up the fetid smell with air fresheners, Santini said.
Investigators said that Garcia admitted to a witness that she planned to burn the body because she didn’t want the other children taken by DCFS. She dropped off her other children with relatives before she, Camarena and the 17-year-old drove about a mile and a half away from her home to the abandoned building and set Manuel’s body on fire, Santini said.
“She stated that she didn’t call the police after finding the four-year-old body in the back room where he was kept because she didn’t want DCFS involved,” Santini said.
Candice Perez, who is the mother of Camarena and a neighbor of Garcia’s, said she and her son tried to help the children.
“We have brought those kids to our house, we have fed them, we were there for them,” Perez said. “Just because they weren’t our kids and just because they weren’t related to us, we treated them the same way we would any of our other kids. Even the little boy.”
Perez said she took pictures of Manuel’s legs and body and wishes that she had called DCFS earlier.
“We’re just as guilty as anybody else because had I called DCFS, would this be happening right now? Probably not,” she said. “But I was thinking about the kids and didn’t want them all to be taken. But I should have. I should have made a selfish decision and said, ‘you know what? They all got to go,’ because ultimately, would this be happening?”
DCFS, which is investigating the boy's death, was in contact with Garcia as recently as February when it investigated an allegation of abuse of an older child, DCFS spokeswoman Veronica Resa said in a statement. That allegation was determined to be unfounded.
A 2012 allegation of neglect was indicated, Resa said. At that time, DCFS took protective custody of the mother’s four children, including Manuel. The children were placed in foster care while Garcia worked with DCFS and completed parenting classes. DCFS released the four children back into Garcia’s care last year after she “complied with all DCFS requests and terms,” Resa said.
After Manuel’s death this week, DCFS took custody of his five siblings, including the twins, who remain in the hospital for monitoring, officials said. The children, who range in age from 10 to newborns, are all reported to be in good condition, Resa said.
Garcia, Camarena and the 17-year-old also were charged with attempted residential arson. Police said other charges could be filed after the Cook County medical examiner's office determines how the boy died.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM
It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera was a murder victim.
“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.
“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”
Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.
The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.
“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”
Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”
Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.
“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”
Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”
April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).
interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question
raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,
these gentlemen, in making the above statements, attempted to explain why Social Service workers,
and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of
an abused child with its abuser(s). Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother. Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused.
We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.
And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.
And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.
This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.
words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct
thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the
child will suffer.
I recently attended a meeting where I listened to
gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children
who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of
Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.
Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?
We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum. We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time. We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV. After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.
While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism? Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.
In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.
We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.
While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.
For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.
We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals. Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department. Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children. We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.
Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.
I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.
The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?
We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.
Simply put in perspective, if a
disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease
Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend
millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of
money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic. Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year. Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?
Yes, our lives were forever changed by our visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial
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Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder
The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.
The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.
The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.
Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.
Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.
Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.
Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .
“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”
“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”
“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”
Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.
“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”
“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.
Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.