The woman arrested on suspicion of killing her three young children at her Los Angeles apartment had been involved in a custody dispute with their father, according to a newspaper report yesterday.
Liliana Carrillo, 30, was arrested on Saturday in Tulare County after fleeing the gruesome scene and leading law enforcement officers on a long-distance chase, authorities said.
The Los Angeles Times cites family court documents that show Eric Denton sought custody of the children — ages 3, 2 and 6 months — on March 1.
Denton requested a temporary emergency visitation order from the court on March 4 and petitioned for a mental health evaluation of Carrillo, according to the newspaper. Orders were drawn up at a March 26 hearing. Another hearing in the case was scheduled for April 14.
In response, Carrillo sought a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Denton on March 12 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, documents show.
In a brief interview with the Times, Denton confirmed he was the father of the three children — two girls and a boy — and said he'd been in a custody battle with Carrillo after she began acting mentally unstable.
Denton said he tried to get local authorities to intervene, but "in LA they wouldn't help. The LAPD would not get involved." He said Carrillo was supposed to turn over the kids to him yesterday.
The children's grandmother returned home from work and found their bodies and the mother missing, Los Angeles police Lt Raul Jovel said. The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted the children appeared to be under 5 years old.
Police said initial reports suggested the children had been stabbed to death, but no official cause of death has been released.
Los Angeles police initially received reports Carrillo was driving her car and heading north on Interstate 5 when she got in an altercation in the Bakersfield area. She abandoned her car and carjacked another vehicle, Jovel said.
Carrillo was detained in the Ponderosa area of Tulare County, about 160km north of Bakersfield, police said.
Lupe Cuevas, a neighbour of Carrillo and her children, told the San Bernardino Sun that she interacted with the three children and their grandmother during afternoon walks around the neighbourhood.
One of the children, a girl, was drawn to her Chihuahua, Rosie, Cuevas told the newspaper.
"Those babies were such sweet little ones," she said. "It hurts."
Cuevas said she thought the girl was the middle child of the three.
"She wasn't shy. She was sweet." Cuevas said. "An angel shouldn't have to go that way."
'She was not herself'
Family members say the mother had been struggling with her mental health for a while before the tragedy.
Relatives of the father of the children, Erick Denton, sent up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the children's funerals.
His cousin, Teri Miller, said in an interview that he had been fighting Carrillo, his ex-girlfriend, for custody of the kids for a long time before their deaths.
According to Miller, he contacted authorities multiple times trying to find help for his ex-girlfriend, who he said was not well.
"Liliana was very sick, and this is not – she was not herself, and it's been going on for several months that she has been unwell," the cousin said.
She said Denton received an emergency order granting him custody of the kids in March, but suggested that no one helped enforce it so he could not get his children from their mother and grandmother.
"He's also frustrated with the system, because the system failed them," Miller said. "The system failed these kids."
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
- With AP