A heartbroken father whose three young children were allegedly murdered by their mother is suing Los Angeles after he claims police and social workers failed to intervene despite his numerous pleas for help.
Erik Denton filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and county of Los Angeles on Thursday, more than a year after his three kids, Joanna, 3, Terry, 2, and Sierra, six-months-old, were found dead in an apartment.
His children’s mother, Liliana Carrillo, fled to northern California, nearly 200 miles away, after their deaths. She later admitted to drowning the kids, claiming she wanted to ‘protect’ them from alleged abuse amid a bitter custody battle Denton.
The father claims he contacted authorities more than a dozen times about the ‘dangers’ Carrillo posed to their children, but the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) repeatedly ignored his warnings.
‘There were at least 18 contact they made, in which the police department and protective services had a mandatory duty report it and to act and they did not,’ Denton’s attorney, David Casey, told CBS News. ‘They repeatedly said, “Please, protect these children.”
Carrillo is charged with three counts of homicide and her case remains ongoing, according to online court records. She is scheduled to return to court next month and is being held in jail on more than $6 million bail.
Erik Denton has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles city and county after his three children – Joanna, 3, Terry, 2, and Sierra, six-months-old – were allegedly murdered by their mother. Denton is pictured with his kids in this undated photo
The wrongful death suit, which was reviewed by CBS, alleges that Denton was granted emergency custody of the three children more than a month before their deaths, citing psychotic episodes, hallucinations and paranoia that Carrillo had allegedly been experiencing.
However, according to the suit, the order was never followed.
The father also claims DCFS visited his ex-girlfriend and their children at least twice, but social workers never documented her ‘alarming behavior’ until just days before they were killed.
He also claims he begged police on numerous occasions to put Carrillo through a psychiatric evaluation, but officials declined to do so.
‘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,’ Casey said in a statement.
Liliana Carrillo, the children’s mother, admitted to drowning the kids, claiming she wanted to she wanted to ‘protect’ her kids from alleged abuse amid a bitter custody battle Denton
Denton’s attorney, David Casey (pictured Friday) said the father contacted police and social workers 18 times about Carrillo’s dangerous behaviors but officials failed to take action
Denton sought custody of his three children last year, citing what he said was their mother’s ‘erratic and unstable behavior’ and mental health issues.
Fearful for their safety, Denton petitioned the court for custody, alleging Carrillo was delusional and had taken the kids and refused to tell him where they were.
Carrillo then filed a restraining order against Denton and claimed he was an alcoholic who may have sexually abused their eldest child.
As the case wound through family courts in Tulare and Los Angeles counties, the parents traded accusations in dozens of pages of documents.
Police were called, social workers were consulted, alarming text messages and Facebook posts were saved as legal exhibits. But, within weeks, the children were dead.
Denton’s lawsuit alleges that LAPD officers and social workers from the county’s Department of Children and Family Services repeatedly ignored warnings about Carrillo’s behavior and failed to investigate and cross-report their findings to other agencies as required under state law.
The attorney also noted that Denton’s cousin, Teri Miller, who is an emergency room physician, also filed reports to LAPD about the children’s well-being.
Like, Denton, Miller’s concerns were allegedly dismissed.
‘You see the efforts that Erik and Dr. Miller made in reaching out to the police department and to see repeatedly how they were ignored or disregarded, and the intervention would’ve made all the difference,’ Casey said.
The attorney added: ‘The fact that he’s been able to deal with this has been remarkable, particularly after all the efforts he made to get the intervention of the police department and Child Protective Services.’
Erik Denton and Liliana Carrillo are pictured with two of their children
Denton claims DCFS visited Carrillo and their children at least twice, but social workers never documented her ‘alarming behavior’ until just days before they were killed. He is pictured holding one of his children during infancy
LA County DCFS declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation and confidential records, 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 issued to the Associated Press. ‘We remain fiercely committed to strengthening our community partnerships to enhance the safety net for children and families.’
The LA city attorney’s office told the news outlet it will review the lawsuit and declined further comment.
Representatives for the LA County counsel and LAPD did not respond to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment on the lawsuit.
The public defender’s office, which is representing Carrillo, also did not immediately return a request for comment.
The bodies of Joanna, Terry, and Sierra were found inside the family’s apartment by their maternal grandmother in April 2021. Police are pictured outside the unit shortly after their deaths
Denton, who is pictured with two of his children, claimed Carrillo suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of their middle child, began therapy and later quit. He said she self-medicated with marijuana and, in texts and social media posts, said things like ‘I wish I never had kids’ and threatened to kill herself
The bodies of Joanna, Terry, and Sierra were found inside the family’s apartment by their maternal grandmother in April 2021.
Carrillo, who had vanished up north, was later arrested on suspicion of carjacking, having stolen a truck. She said in her interview that she wanted to drive off of a cliff and kill herself.
During a jailhouse interview shortly after her arrest, Carrillo confessed to killing them, saying she drowned them ‘as softly as she could’.
She said she wanted to protect them from their father, who she believes is a human trafficker and would have ‘abused them’.
‘I drowned them. I did it as softly, I don’t know how to explain it .I didn’t want them to be further abused,’ said Carrillo, who was interviewed at the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility in Kern County, KGET-TV reported.
‘I promised them when they were born that I was going to protect them. I hugged them and I kissed them and I was apologizing the whole time,’ she said. ‘I loved my kids.’
‘I wish my kids were alive, yes,’ she said. ‘Do I wish that I didn’t have to do that? Yes. But I prefer them not being tortured and abused on a regular basis for for the rest of their lives.’
She didn’t say how she drowned them.
Denton, who petitioned for custody of his kids in March 2021, alleged Carrillo was delusional and had taken the kids and refused to tell him where they were.
Erik Denton, left, is pictured with his three children who were allegedly stabbed to death in their apartment by their mother Liliana Carrillo, right, in Reseda, Los Angeles on April 10
Liliana Carrillo, 30, told KGET-TV that she drowned her kids Joanna, three, Terry, two and Sierra, six-months-old, claiming she wanted to protect them from their father, who she believes is a human trafficker and would have ‘abused them’.
Denton’s court filings from last year detailed how his ex suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of their middle child, began therapy and later quit.
He said she self-medicated with marijuana and, in texts and social media posts, said things like ‘I wish I never had kids’ and threatened to kill herself.
Carrillo also believed she was ‘solely responsible’ for the coronavirus pandemic, Denton alleged, and she thought that Porterville – where the family had lived until the end of February – was home to a ‘giant sex trafficking ring.’
In her jailhouse interview, Carrillo said she had dealt with depression, anxiety and PTSD her whole life and had sought out a therapist for post-partum depression but contended that it was her husband who posed a threat to the children.
She alleged her daughter and a son had shown signs of abuse and that she had tried but failed to obtain help through social workers and law enforcement.
‘I wish my kids were alive, yes. Do I wish I didn’t have to do that, yes? But I prefer them not being tortured and abused on a regular basis for the rest of their life,’ she said during last year’s interview, adding that she expected to spend the rest of her life in prison.
When asked what her final message to her children, she replied: ‘I love you, and I’m sorry.’
Photos, candles, flowers and balloons were placed as a memorial for the three children shortly after their deaths last year
Police are pictured at the apartment shortly after the children’s bodies were discovered