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An LA mother says she killed her children in order to protect them from alleged abuse. Learn how there's more to it than that in this true crime case.

True Crime: Meet the woman who drowned her kids to save them from abuse

Moms who kill can be some of the scariest cases in true crime history. Diane Downs, Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, and more women kill their children for a variety of reasons – from simply wanting them gone to mental illness. It’s always tragic & chilling though to hear such stories. Goes without saying – all cases involving children in true crime are tragic & chilling. 

Given the bond between mother & child or, well, the bond that’s supposed to exist there, a new level of tragedy just sort of permeates these cases. If there is anyone in the world a kid should feel safe with, it’s their mother. Now, there’s a new name to add to the true crime list of mothers who killed their kids: Liliana Carrillo. Why did she kill her children? What’s going to happen next in her case? Here’s everything you need to know.


Carrillo was a mother of three children, who she drowned in the bathtub. The Los Angeles mother said that she did this to keep her kids away from their allegedly abusive father, Erik Denton, who she was in the process of divorcing. The custody battle over their three kids: Joanna (three), Terry (two), and Sierra (six months) was extremely bitter between the former couple.

In an exclusive interview with KGET-TV, Carrillo admitted to killing her children. She said, “I drowned them. I did it as softly, I don’t know how to explain it. I hugged them. I kissed them. I was apologizing the whole time. I loved my kids.” She said that she drowned them in order to “protect them” for abuse from their father. Last month, Denton requested a mental health evaluation on his ex-wife.

Carrillo alleged that Denton is involved with human trafficking. According to Denton and court filings from the Los Angeles Times, Carrillo also accused Denton of participating in a pedophile ring and allowing someone to molest one of their daughters. Of course, as in many of these cases, it sounds like Carrillo was not mentally well. She had struggled with postpartum depression for years.

In the months leading to the deaths, well, things took a turn for the worst. 

Repeated warnings

In the same Los Angeles Times article, there were a lot of alarms that should have been ringing in various heads. Carrillo was described as “extremely paranoid” in the months leading to her children’s murder. She called that she was “solely responsible” for the COVID-19 pandemic and that Denton’s hometown was beset by the same pedophile ring that he was apparently a part of.

Denton was granted physical custody of his children, telling a judge, “I am afraid for my children’s physical and mental well-being.” The Los Angeles Police Department and child welfare agencies were informed of the concerns. Despite two separate reports, despite repeated conversations with Denton, his family, and the court, social workers decided to keep the children with their mother.

As LA ER physician Dr. Terri Miller said, “The judge in Porterville listened and read all the information, but everyone in L.A. kept pushing it off on someone else.” While Carrillo said she killed her children “softly”. There was signs that her children were bludgeoned to death in addition to drowning. Carrillo was supposed to only have supervised visits with her children.

Child welfare screwed up

This is a common theme in true crime stories, but, yeah, child welfare dropped the ball bigtime. Apparently, Denton & Miller went to DCFS to report that Carrillo and the kids were missing, that they believed Carrillo was having psychosis. They told LAPD and LA county DCFS this and, well, DCFS dropped the ball. In these cases, apparently, the LAPD follows DCFS lead. 

Denton and his family are frustrated that they could not protect the children. As Miller said, “Erik’s hands were tied by the law. He jumped through every hoop placed in front of him to get the kids back safely.” In this case, as with many in true crime, he was ultimately failed by the law.

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