The mother of a girl who was sexually molested by multiple men she allowed to stay in an El Monte apartment testified Friday that she never approved such abuses and that her daughter considered one of the perpetrators a father-figure.
“I was very gullible back then,” the 39-year-old woman told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of her daughter’s lawsuit against Los Angeles County. “I still am to an extent.”
The lawsuit was filed on her behalf by the father of the girl, now 15 years old.
It alleges that Department of Children and Family Services social workers didn’t take steps to remove the girl from the home despite having reasonable suspicion the girl was being abused.
Lawyers for the county maintain social workers had no grounds to seek removal of the child from her mother until the girl confided in her father about the abuses in 2012.
The mother and four of the men who lived in the apartment are now convicted sex offenders. The abuses occurred during 2010-12, when the girl was 7 to 10 years old. In addition, a neighbor reported in 2010 that the girl was wandering alone in front of the home, according to her attorneys’ court papers.
In her testimony, the girl’s mother said she and the child’s father met while both were in the Navy and that she temporarily lived with her mother-in-law and the child in New Mexico while the girl’s father remained on active duty overseas.
The woman said she returned to California and lived in various Southern California locales before settling in El Monte, including San Diego, Fontana and Temple City. She said she held various jobs and worked for a time as a stripper. She said she also worked a graveyard shift doing food inventory work until she became weary of the hours and got hired at Kmart. She said she additionally went to school and completed studies to be a pharmacy technician.
She said that although the El Monte lease was under her name, she bowed to the wishes of a longtime friend who she called her mother and who allowed various men to stay at the apartment to help pay the rent. She said one of the men who lived there was unemployed and that his wife was a panhandler.
She said she was not pleased that another of the men, Louie Fluet, was staying at the apartment because he had also lived with her previously in Fontana and she had grown to dislike him.
However, she said she did not know until later that Fluet was sleeping at night on a mattress next to her daughter.
“When I was there, he slept downstairs on the floor,” the woman testified.
The woman said that in December 2009, she reported that a man with whom she was in a relationship had physically abused the plaintiff and another daughter. She said the DCFS provided services were provided to her and her three children.
The woman said a social worker kept track of the case and later raised possible issues about Fluet, saying he should not be allowed to stay any longer at the apartment. But the social worker was only making a recommendation and not any demands, the woman said.
The woman said her daughter liked Fluet.
“She was eager to have a father-figure in her life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know he was a sicko at the time.”
She said she also didn’t know the other men were abusing the girl while also allegedly taking illegal drugs.
“I did not know these people were not nice people,” she said.
The woman said that the person who she called her mother had severe health problems and died in 2013.
Asked why she agreed to take a plea bargain if she did not believe she was guilty of any charges against her, the woman replied, “That was so I could get out of jail.”
Prior to the woman’s testimony, jurors were shown footage of a deposition Fluet gave earlier this year from prison. He denied he sexually abused the girl and said he worked at the Commerce Casino.