Two years after telling a reporter on tape that she had killed her three young children, a San Fernando Valley woman was ordered this week to stand trial in their slayings.
Liliana Carrillo, 32, is accused of drowning her 6-month-old daughter, Sierra; her 2-year-old son, Terry; and her 3-year-old daughter, Joanna, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The criminal complaint also includes an allegation that Carrillo used a knife as a deadly and dangerous weapon on her youngest daughter.
In June 2022, Carrillo pleaded not guilty to three murder charges. She is scheduled to appear for a hearing in L.A. County Superior Court on Sept. 7.
The children's grandmother found them slain in their Reseda apartment on April 10, 2021, prompting a massive hunt for Carrillo, authorities said.
Carrillo had fled north on Highway 65 but crashed her car about 10 miles outside Delano, authorities said. When another driver came to her aid, she allegedly carjacked the motorist’s truck. After a long-distance chase, she was eventually arrested in Tulare County.
In an interview from jail after her arrest, Carrillo told a reporter for Bakersfield's NBC affiliate, KGET-TV Channel 17, that she had killed her children because she feared their abuse and sexual assault at the hands of others.
“I wasn’t about to hand my children off to be further abused,” she told the reporter. Carrillo was involved in a child custody dispute at the time with the children's father, Erik Denton, whom she had accused of sexual abuse. Denton denied abusing the children.
Carrillo said on tape that she had killed her children “softly,” hugging and kissing them while doing so. Her last message to the three children was, “I love you, and I’m sorry,” she said.
According to Denton's account in court papers, Carrillo was “extremely paranoid” and erratic, and increasingly prone to bizarre claims, including that she was “solely responsible” for the COVID-19 pandemic and that his San Joaquin Valley hometown of Porterville was beset by a pedophile ring.
In a petition to a Tulare County judge, he said that Carrillo had struggled with postpartum depression for years and had expressed thoughts of suicide, self-medicated with marijuana and in recent months had “lost touch with reality."
“I am afraid for my children’s physical and mental well-being,” Denton told the judge before he was granted physical custody in March 2021.
But Carrillo apparently refused to hand over her children.
The L.A. County child welfare agency and the Los Angeles Police Department were alerted, on numerous occasions, that Carrillo was a danger to the children, according to interviews by The Times with Denton and his family, along with court records and sources familiar with the investigation.
But social workers opted to keep the children with their mother, according to records and interviews.
After the deaths of his children, Denton and his family accused police and child welfare agencies of not acting on “the red flags about her behavior,” which included a desperate plea with police that “she might kill the kids,” Denton’s cousin told The Times.
In 2022, Denton filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Los Angeles County and the city accusing social workers and the LAPD of repeatedly ignoring warnings about the danger Carrillo posed and of failing to follow the law.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.