A woman arrested in connection with the murder of her three children at their apartment in the San Fernando Valley has been embroiled in a tense custody dispute, according to the children’s father and court documents.
Liliana Carrillo, 30, was arrested in Tulare County on Saturday after fleeing the scene and leading law enforcement officials in a long-range chase in which she allegedly hijacked a van in Bakersfield, said authorities.
The children’s grandmother called police earlier after discovering the children – aged 3, 2 and 6 months – dead at their apartment complex in Reseda and their mother was gone, authorities said. Initial reports said the children had been stabbed, but authorities have not confirmed the cause of death.
Erik Denton, the father of the children – two girls and a boy – filed for custody on March 1, according to Tulare County Family Court documents online.
Denton applied for a temporary emergency visitation order from Porterville Family Court on March 4 and requested a mental health assessment for Carrillo, court documents show. The orders were drafted at a hearing on March 26. Another hearing in the case was scheduled for April 14.
In response, Carrillo applied for a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Denton on March 12 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, court documents show.
In a brief interview with the Los Angeles Times, Denton confirmed he was the father of all three and said he was in a custody battle with Carrillo after she began to act mentally unstable.
Denton said he tried to bring in local authorities, but “in Los Angeles they wouldn’t help. The LAPD would not get involved. He said Carrillo was supposed to hand the children over to him on Sunday.
He said she may have gone to Tulare County to look for him, but he was far from home at the time. He said the police came later to tell him what had happened.
At the scene of the crime in Reseda on Saturday, LAPD Lieutenant Raul Joel said there had been no prior calls to police at the Carrillo residence.
“These are the moments that we live throughout our careers,” said Joel, noting that innocent lives have been lost. “It’s hard to deal with this as a police officer.”
Elizabeth Cuevas, who lives in an apartment above the one where the murders took place, said she knew the grandmother as an occasional acquaintance. Cuevas said she sometimes sees her while walking her dogs.
Cuevas met one of the children, a “sweet little girl” of about 3, who asked if she could stroke her Chihuahua mix.
“He was a perfect little angel,” she said. “She was precious beyond what you can imagine.”
The crime makes no sense to her. She said the children seemed to be well liked.
“They were beautiful,” she says.
The little girl was sweet but not too shy or scared, she said.
“An angel shouldn’t have to go this route,” Cuevas said.
She never heard any screams coming from the apartment, only the cartoon sounds, which she said could be heard at all hours, sometimes until 10 p.m. She also never saw the police respond to the unit until Saturday.
“Someone slammed over there, and they slammed in the wrong direction,” she says.
Cuevas said she couldn’t shake the memory of the polite little girl asking to pet her dog.
“I’ll be dealing with this for a while,” she said.