Liliana Carrillo, a self-proclaimed “social justice warrior” who is currently behind bars in California as the “sole suspect” in the deaths of her three children, admitted in an explosive interview with KGET-TV reporter Eytan Wallace that she drowned all three of her children in order to save them from what she believed would be a lifetime of being “continuously tortured and abused” by their own father in an alleged human trafficking ring. In the interview, Carrillo admitted that a list of officials at various levels of government and the father of her children had all told her she was “crazy” long before she said she killed the kids to “protect them.” Relatives described Carrillo as someone who “needed help” in separate interviews with other television stations.
“I was a mom up until recently,” Carrillo said near the beginning of the interview. “I used to travel California advocating against human trafficking. I’ve always been a social justice warrior, equal rights, and human rights activist. I’ve always been very vocal about basically a lot of the things that are going on in the world.”
A few minutes later, Wallace cut to the heart of the matter:
WALLACE: “Liliana, what happened to your three children in Reseda?”
CARRILLO: “I drowned them.”
“Because I — Eric [the children’s father] and his friends had basically told me throughout my relationship, like, what would happen, you know, and everything was happening just as they were saying, and so I wasn’t about to hand my children off to be further abused.”
“To be clear, did you kill your children?”
“Because I didn’t want them to be further abused. I promised them when they were born that I was going to protect them, and I already — already saw what was happening. I already saw — I already knew what was going on. And I knew what was going to continue to happen.”
A few moments later, Wallace probed further:
WALLACE: “Do you regret your actions?”
CARRILLO: “I wish my kids were alive, yes. Do I wish that I didn’t have to do that? Yes. But I’m — I prefer them not being tortured and abused on a regular basis for the rest of their life.”
“Do you believe your children were physically harmed?”
“To add to that — do you believe your children were physically harmed when you say you drowned them?”
“No. I did it as softly, or — I don’t know how to explain it, but — um — I hugged them, and I kissed them, and I was apologizing the whole time. I love my kids. I love my kids . . . and I promised I would protect them.”
Carrillo named her children and provided their ages. KGET and other local news outlets listed the children as Joanna Denton, age 3; Terry Denton, age 2; and Sierra Denton, who was just six months old. Some reports suggested the children may have been stabbed; others said no official cause of death had been determined. Carrillo did not mention anything about a stabbing in the jailhouse interview.
The children’s bodies were discovered in an apartment in Reseda, Calif., on Saturday, April 10. Carrillo, whom the Los Angeles Police Department said was the “sole suspect” in the killings, fled the area but was later arrested in Tulare County after an alleged carjacking, reports indicate. Kern County jail records reviewed by Law&Crime say Carrillo — listed in jail records under the last name “Carrillos” — was booked on April 12 at 9:33 p.m. on charges of carjacking, taking a vehicle without its owner’s consent, and attempted carjacking. All three are felonies. A court date is set for May 7.
Wallace asked Carrillo for more details:
WALLACE: “Is there anything in your mind that says — I heard what you said about why you said you did this — but, is there anything in your mind that says, ‘I murdered them?'”
CARRILLO: “I know what I did, and, and — yes — obviously — I killed my children. It’s horrible, and I hate it, and I hate myself for it, but like I said, I wasn’t about to hand them off to be continuously tortured and abused.”
Carrillo predicted the children’s father would deny and dismiss her claims if he was asked for a response.
“He’s a liar and a sociopath,” the admitted killer of her children said about their father.
“I know they’re not going to be here anymore, and that’s all that matters to me,” she said later while reiterating that she loved her children. She claimed the father of her children moved the family to Porterville, Calif., the small Tulare County town where they lived north of Bakersfield, so he could groom the children for abuse and be among a “community” of other human traffickers and abusers. She claimed children’s father’s friends, a local heath care organization, the children’s pediatrician, the police, and various other state and county officials were all in on it. She claimed Child Protective Services workers and a human trafficking hotline did nothing to help her despite pleas for help.
Officials kept telling her she was “crazy,” she said.
Social services workers and physicians are among the many professions required under California law to report child abuse. But the law also predicates that some reports may be “unfounded.”
“I met the father of my kids when my grandmother — her health was failing,” Carrillo said earlier in the interview. “I was not talking to my family at that time. He [the father] knew that when we met. I was his Uber driver. We had like a 45 minute drive. We talked about our lives. He told me about his failing relationship; I told him about my failing relationships and, basically, how alone I was.”
“The reason that I’m doing this interview is because I believe that my children were already groomed, and I was being groomed as well,” the admitted killer claimed. “I’m thinking I was targeted because of the work that I had done, and I was a very impactful communicator and leader — and, so, I think that, basically, he took advantage of me being in a very sad place and — um — my children were showing signs of grooming, and my daughter was vocalizing that she was hurting down below and it wasn’t the first time. And I went through every avenue that I should have as a parent. I provided video documentation. I spoke with CPS; I spoke with social workers; I did everything I could to try and get help for my children, and they were just going to hand them off to the dad.”
She claimed the father of her three children dismissed her claims — which she called “rational” claims — that their children were being groomed for abuse.
According to her, he would say, “that’s what kids do.” But she also admitted his responses to her allegations of abuse were also “rational.”
“‘You’re not seeing what you think you’re seeing,’ or ‘you’re not hearing that right,’ or ‘that’s just what kids do’ . . . he always had some kind of reason . . . he would use something rational to kind of, like, settle me down,” she claimed.
Carrillo then outlined several reasons why she believed her children were being groomed for human trafficking — reasons she believed necessitated their deaths.
“When they were at the park, they would intentionally hurt themselves,” she claimed. “My daughter tried to — like — she grabbed my face and she tried to open my mouth with her mouth and stick her tongue inside my mouth. My daughter had told me when my son was almost a year and a half [as] I was diaper changing her that it hurt down there.”
Her daughter would have been approximately two and a half years old at the time.
“She knows — speaks English; she understands Spanish; and she also communicates in sign language,” Carrillo claimed of her daughter who was three when she died. “So, my daughter, even though she wasn’t speaking, like, the way a normal single-language child would speak — she’s very confident — she’s very smart — she told me because it was because of her dad. At first . . . I didn’t think . . . I thought maybe she was too young; she didn’t know what she was talking about; but she said it again recently. The judge had given us joint custody. They went with him for a week. When they came back, I diaper changed my daughter.”
Carrillo then claimed to have recorded a video during a diaper change of what she believed was a sign that her daughter was alleging abuse.
Carrillo claimed her daughter and son squirmed and said “ow” to indicate they were in pain. She also claimed the children’s father would make “comments in subtle innuendos” to suggest that things would get worse if she complained about her observations.
The children’s father called the police, she said; she claimed his move was merely an attempt to “intimidate” her. She said she didn’t understand why there was not an investigation into the children’s father or the alleged cabal of sex traffickers of which she assumed he was a part.
“I never thought their dad was part of it until it was too late,” she claimed.
According to local news reports, the children’s father visited the scene where the three victims died. “Dad loves you” was written in chalk near a makeshift memorial after his reported visit.
Carrillo said she did not have an attorney but pleaded for help finding one with human trafficking experience who could take her own criminal case.
Carrillo described her own upbringing as “challenging.”
“I was very stubborn, and I actually removed myself from my family at a very young age,” she said. “As a result, I found myself where I am now, I guess, in the long run.”
Where is is now is behind jailhouse walls.
When asked about her mental health status, Carrillo said she had been suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD “her whole life.” She said she’d never been prescribed psychiatric medication — but she said she stopped smoking Marijuana in February.
Citing court documents, Wallace, the reporter who conducted the interview, said the children’s father alleged Carrillo was “mentally distressed.”
“Whatever it is that he wants to say about my mental wellness is just his reaction and response to basically getting caught,” Carrillo said while sitting behind jailhouse walls. “Of course he’s going to say I’m crazy. I’m not crazy.”
No reports suggest the children’s father has been charged with any wrongdoing whatsoever.
“I’m not crazy,” Carrillo repeated in the same sitting where she admitted multiple times over again that she had killed her three children. “I’m just speaking up for my children.”
“I think it’s human trafficking,” she alleged yet again.
She claimed she tried to drive herself off a cliff so she could kill herself and be with her kids. Her car got stuck, so she admitted she carjacked a vehicle from people who she said stopped to help her.
When Wallace, the reporter who conducted the interview, asked Carrillo if she regretted anything, Carrillo immediately responded she regretted meeting the father of her children.
“Do you not regret murdering your children?” Wallace implored.
“It’s not the same thing,” Carrillo said in an apparent quibble over the word “murder.”
“Obviously, I wish I didn’t have to, but I’m glad that they’re not going to suffer,” she explained — according to her thinking. “They’re not going to be continuously harmed.”
She said she was speaking out in hopes someone would investigate whether other kids were still at risk — and to seek an attorney who would help her.
“I love you, and I’m sorry,” Carrillo said when asked to speak to her children. When asked what their final words were, she responded, “how could they say anything?”
KGET reported that Carrillo has not been formally charged in the deaths of the children. The station also noted that Carrillo and the children’s father had been engaged in a “bitter custody dispute” leading up to the children’s deaths.
According to Carrillo, the children’s father at one point said she needed to be “locked up in a mental ward.”
She said there was “no reason” for that to have occurred.
“I know what I did was wrong,” she also said in an admission likely to become legally critical for prosecutors. Earlier in the interview, she agreed she was “completely sober” when her children died.
California’s insanity defense involves the so-called M’Naughten Rule. Legal insanity can be found by a jury if, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” the defendant “was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense” (emphases added). The burden of proof is on the state to prove that a defendant was sane, and Carrillo tidily admitted that she knew what she “did was wrong” in the interview.
When asked to conclude, Carrillo said she was praying for her children and thought of them daily.
“I know that I’m going to be in jail the rest of my life,” she said. “That’s something I’ve come to terms with.”
Relatives told another California TV station, KTTV, that the children’s father, Erik Denton, was “completely in shock and completely devastated.”
“He’s heartbroken,” said Erik Denton’s cousin, Terri Miller, in that separate interview. “Liliana was very sick, and this is not — she is not herself. And it’s been going on for several months that she has been unwell. And he’s been actively doing everything possible through the — you know — the child protective services, the LAPD, to (1) get Liliana help, and (2) get his children safely home, because she left with the kids at the end of February. So he actually had emergency custody orders with the children since March 4. He did everything that he could think of to get his kids back home safely and to get her help, too, because he still loved her. But she was just not herself. So, he’s also frustrated with the system, because the system failed them. The system failed these kids.”
A GoFundMe page has been established to help Denton offset funeral expenses.
Watch KGET’s unedited jailhouse interview below:
Watch KTTV’s interview with the father’s relative below:
[images via screen captures from KGET-TV]
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