Echo Park Mother Accused of Starving Son, Hiding Him in Closet for Years Will Not Face Death Penalty

Veronica Aguilar appears for a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom in Aug. 2016. (Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Veronica Aguilar appears for a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom in Aug. 2016. (Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A mother accused of killing her malnourished son, who was found dead inside a closet in their Echo Park home in 2016, will avoid the death penalty, officials said.

Verónica Aguilar, 42, pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse resulting in death upon being arraigned again Monday, a court clerk told KTLA.

With the death penalty taken off the table at Monday’s hearing, Aguilar is now facing possible life without parole.

Investigators believe 11-year-old Yonatan Daniel Aguilar died of neglect and severe malnutrition before his body was discovered wrapped in a blanket inside a closet on Aug. 22, 2016.

Earlier this year, the boy’s stepfather Jose Pinzon — who initially reported the death to police — testified that Verónica had told him she sent Yonatan to Mexico for treatment of his learning disability, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Yonatan Daniel Aguilar is seen in a family photo album shown at his public memorial on Sept. 14, 2016 in Echo Park. (Credit: KTLA)

Yonatan Daniel Aguilar is seen in a family photo album shown at his public memorial on Sept. 14, 2016 in Echo Park. (Credit: KTLA)

But according to the newspaper, prosecutors say the boy spent his time locked in a closet, sedated with sleeping aids and starved so badly that he only weighed 34 pounds when he died.

Investigators told the Times the abuse was so well-hidden that Pinzon wasn’t even aware Yonatan was there.

The newspaper further reports that Yonatan had been marked as at “high” risk for abuse by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, but police never investigated.

Verónica remains in custody on $2 million bail, booking records show.

She is scheduled to return to court Jan. 17 for a pre-trial hearing.

KTLA’s Dianne Sanchez contributed to this report.

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