A social worker testified Monday that although she had warned an El Monte mother she could lose custody of her children if she allowed a handyman with an arrest record for sexual abuse to live in her apartment, she had no reason to suspect the man was abusing the woman’s daughter.
Elbis Sebero defended the way she and another social worker, Lucia So, handled an investigation that started with a 2009 probe into alleged physical abuses of two of the woman’s children by another man, the mother’s former husband.
A lawsuit now being tried before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury alleges that Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services social workers didn’t take steps to remove a girl, now 15, from the residence in 2010 despite having reasonable suspicion the child was being abused and that her mother did nothing about it. Others also lived in the apartment, including several men alleged to have been permitted to stay there at various times.
Lawyers for the county maintain that 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.
Severo said that after she learned that one of the men, Louie Fluet, had been the subject of past allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, she warned the girl’s mother that she could lose custody of her children if the man was allowed to stay at her apartment. She said the mother signed an affidavit swearing that Fluet did not reside with her.
“I didn’t know she was lying. She told me he stayed there a very short time and wasn’t living there anymore,” Severo said.
Severo said that in her dealings with the mother and father of the girl, the mother was more cooperative.
“She was generally trying to provide the best care for her children and was attending all her (parenting) classes,” Severo said.
In contrast, the girl’s father, who had monitored visits with his daughter when he arrived from his New Mexico home, was confrontational and difficult, she said. She said his claims that his daughter was unclean contradicted with her own observations of the child.
Asked by plaintiff’s attorney David Ring what she did when she found out that the man was taking the girl to nearby Gidley Elementary School despite her earlier warnings to the girl’s mother, Severo replied, “Nothing.”
Severo said she wrote a letter in October 2010 recommending that the case be closed and the family no longer be monitored.
“I didn’t have any indication he had done anything to any of those girls,” Severo said.
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 observed wandering alone in front of the home, according to her attorneys’ court papers.
Fluet, in a video deposition shown to jurors last Friday, denied abusing the girl or that he had slept in the same room with her.
Another of the convicted men, Tim Martinson, testified in a video deposition played for jurors on Monday that he also did not abuse the girl, but said Fluet did indeed sleep in the same room with the child.
Martinson said he was so worried about the girl’s welfare that he thought about taking her with him to a friend’s home. He said he ultimately reported his concerns to the DCFS. He described the home as “filthy” and said there was drug-related material, including pipes, scattered throughout.
Martinson said he regularly consumed methamphetamine and LSD in the home before leaving and living on the streets.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: