CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ child welfare agency had prior contact with the family of a 4-year-old boy whose malnourished, partially burned remains were found by Chicago firefighters this week.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said it received a report for neglect in 2012, and took protective custody of four children, including the boy, Manuel Aguilar. The children were released to their mother in 2015, after she complied with agency requests, including parenting classes.
An abuse allegation was levied earlier this year for an older child, but the agency determined it was unfounded. The agency is now investigating Manuel’s death and has taken protective custody of his five siblings.
When firefighters found Manuel’s body in an abandoned home on Tuesday, he was so small that investigators initially believed they had found a 9-month-old baby, Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini told a judge Thursday. Authorities said the child had been kept in a back room of his family’s home that reeked of feces and urine.
Bond has been set at $2 million for his mother, Alyssa Garcia. The 27-year-old faces felony counts of concealed death and attempted residential arson. Two other people charged in the case are her friend, 19-year-old Christian Camarena, and a 17-year-old boy. It wasn’t immediately clear whether they had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.
Prosecutors said Garcia found her son naked and not breathing on July 29. Garcia and the 17-year-old washed Manuel’s body, put clothes on him, wrapped him in a towel and took the body to an abandoned home and set the body on fire, Santini said.
Santini said Garcia admitted what she did in a video-recorded statement and said she didn’t seek medical attention for Manuel or call police because she feared the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services would take her other children away.
Other charges could be filed once the medical examiner’s office determines Manuel’s cause of death, police said.
Santini said Manuel had been kept in a room where his family’s bicycles were also kept and was often was left naked because he would urinate on himself. The boy would have to knock on the door to be allowed to use the restroom, he said.
“Witness stated that Manny didn’t like being in the back room, and he would scream, ‘Let me out,'” Santini said.
Garcia recently gave birth to premature twins; authorities say the infants were hospitalized for monitoring. In 2012, Garcia was sentenced to 18 months supervision for endangering the life of a child.