Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A man accused of fatally stabbing his three young sons inside an SUV in South Los Angeles in September pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of murder.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II ordered Luiz Fuentes, 33, to remain jailed without bail while awaiting his next court appearance Jan. 26.

Fuentes is charged in the Sept. 9 killings of his sons Alexander, 8, Juan, 9, and Luis, 10.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Fuentes, who faces a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.

A passerby saw Fuentes sitting in the front seat of an SUV parked in the 300 block of East 32nd Street around 7 a.m. on Sept. 9. The man approached the vehicle and saw the children’s bodies inside and Fuentes covered in blood from stab wounds.

Police believe Fuentes stabbed himself. He was hospitalized, then booked on suspicion of murder two days later.

At a vigil in memory of the victims, a pastor said Fuentes had been having financial problems and was living in the SUV with his children, whose mother died in 2008. He was reportedly battling depression.

The Los Angeles Times reported in September that the county Department of Children and Family Services was investigating whether social workers adequately probed some allegations that the boys were at risk and whether staff responded appropriately to what they learned.

A hotline call to DCFS in September 2010 reporting abuse of the children led social workers to determine that the allegation was true, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous officials with the department.

Lawyers for the DCFS petitioned the juvenile court to open a case, officials told The Times, and the boys remained in the father’s home until the case was closed about a year later.

Two more hotline calls alleging physical abuse were made in April 2014, sources told The Times. Social workers who investigated the allegations finally marked the claims “inconclusive” last year.

—City News Service

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