A father has been sentenced to at least 78 years in jail after pleading guilty to stabbing his three children to death.
Luis Fuentes, 38, was handed a term of 78 years to life in a Los Angeles court on Tuesday for stabbing sons Luis, 10, Juan, nine, and Alexander, eight, to death in 2015.
The boys were found in the back of an SUV in September that year, where they had been living with their father for several months after the family fell on hard times following the sudden death of Fuentes’ wife and the boys’ mother in 2008.
Fuentes was found slumped over the steering wheel, having passed out from self-inflicted stab wounds.
Luis Fuentes, 38, has been sentenced to 78 years to life after pleading guilty to stabbing his sons – Luis, 10, Juan, nine, and Alexander, eight – to death in 2015
Luis, Juan and Alexander were found dead in the back of an SUV where they had been living for several months, while Fuentes was found unconscious from self-inflicted stab wounds
While Fuentes has not spoken at length in public since the stabbings, records released in court show a life marked by tragedy, culminating in extreme violence.
Fuentes’ own father was killed when he was aged five, the LA Times reported, and his mother died when he was 17, leaving him to raise his siblings by himself.
Having emerged from a traumatic childhood, he went on to marry and have three children of his own.
But tragedy struck again in 2008, when wife Maria died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. A babysitter close to the family recalled her as ‘a very special person’.
The death left Fuentes – a meat factory worker – single-handedly raising a family for the second time, while trying to deal with the grief of his wife’s passing.
Some time after her death he moved in with a girlfriend, Josefina Barrales, taking the three children with him.
In 2010, social services were called to Barrales’ home because of allegations that he was beating the children.
The brothers were pronounced dead at the scene of the stabbing (pictured), while Fuentes was taken to hospital in critical condition and ultimately survived his wounds
Barrales encouraged social workers to get involved, saying that Fuentes had become ‘anxious, nervous and depressed’.
After finding two of the children with bruises, likely caused by a belt, the family was placed under supervision.
‘I made a mistake,’ Fuentes told investigators at the time.
Case workers found that Fuentes often worked long hours at the meat plant, and returned home to pandemonium.
His children required constant supervision, and at one point, one of the boys was found playing with a knife.
Fuentes was ordered to attend parenting classes and grief counseling. While he willingly attended the classes, he resisted the counseling.
‘Father feels that counseling will not be beneficial to him because it will force him to remember when all he wants is to forget,’ case workers noted.
In November 2011, the family was taken off supervision after Fuentes had attended all of his parenting classes, but only one counseling session.
Social workers were then called back to the home in 2014 to more reports of child abuse, but failed to substantiate the allegation.
The family had fallen on hard times after Fuentes’ wife Maria, who was also the boys’ mother, had died suddenly of an aneurysm in 2008 (pictured visiting her grave)
But they noted that the constant pressures of working a dangerous job and caring for three young children were weighing heavily on Fuentes.
A short time later, Fuentes and his girlfriend ended their relationship, forcing the family to move out.
For a time the father lived with his sister, then began bouncing between motels and sleeping in the car – where they had been for several months before the stabbing.
The family were receiving $204 a month in food stamps, records show, but an application for welfare was turned down on June 22, three months before the boys were killed.
On September 9, the family were found inside their car in the Nevin area of Los Angeles, close to downtown.
The boys were pronounced dead at the scene, while Fuentes was rushed to hospital in critical condition.
He survived his injuries and was hauled to court where he was charged with capital murder. Sobbing in the courtroom, he told the judge: ‘Forgive me.’
Prosecutors decided not to seek capital punishment in the case, and instead offered Fuentes a plea deal that would avoid the death penalty in return for a guilty plea.
Fuentes pleaded guilty late Tuesday, and was immediately handed his sentence.
Records show that Fuentes is currently held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, awaiting transfer to a state prison.