Two children dead, father detained after 'traumatic' child abuse call in Lancaster

Generic police crime scene photograph - Police investigate a multiple murder scene at a dance studio near Garvey Ave. & Garfield Ave., in Monterey Park on Saturday morning, Jan. 22, 2023.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Four children younger than 10 were found in a Lancaster home suffering from severe lacerations, and two of them have died, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The children were found early Sunday in a bedroom of the home by deputies who were responding to a child abuse call.

The youngsters are siblings, said Sheriff's Lt. Daniel Vizcarra, and two of them were expected to survive.

The children's father, Prospero Serna of San Bernardino, was detained by investigators as a "person of interest," sheriff's officials said.

Vizcarra said deputies were still reeling from what they encountered in the bedroom in the 1800 block of East Avenue J-2 as investigators worked to piece together key details.

"It was traumatic for everyone involved," he said. "They are children and truly innocent victims who don't deserve anything like this."

The call, which was received at 11:50 p.m., stated that there was "child abuse in progress," Vizcarra said. The children's mother directed deputies to an apartment, where they found all four children in a bedroom with lacerations. Vizcarra said the mother did not have any visible injuries.

Two of the children were taken to a hospital, where they died. Two are in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries. Vizcarra said he could not release the children's exact ages.

"We don't know what weapon was used at this point," Vizcarra said.

Social service officials have been notified, Vizcarra said. It is not yet known whether the children or adults had come to their attention before Saturday's fatal incident.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said in a statement Sunday that state law "prohibits confirming or commenting on whether a child or family has been involved with the department." The department has faced intense scrutiny in recent years over its handling of a series of highly publicized deaths and injuries to children on its watch.

"As a workforce dedicated to the safety and well-being of Los Angeles County’s children and families, we are deeply disturbed and saddened to learn of the deaths of two young children in the City of Lancaster and injuries sustained by two others as reported by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department," the department said in a statement.

Officials urged anyone with information about the incident to contact the sheriff's homicide bureau at (323) 890-5500. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477).

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.