Death of 4-year-old Manuel Aguilar, found burned in abandoned West Englewood building, ruled homicide

The death of 4-year-old Manuel Aguilar, whose body was set on fire and left in a vacant Englewood home last month, has been ruled a homicide, and boy’s mother remains behind bars.

Alyssa Garcia | Chicago Police

Alyssa Garcia | Chicago Police

Manuel was found Aug. 2 in a vacant home in the 1400 block of West Marquette Road. An autopsy found his death was the result of probable neglect, and was ruled “homicide by unspecified means,” the Cook County medical examiner’s office announced Wednesday.

His mother, 27-year-old Alyssa Garcia, was charged last month with felony counts of concealing a death and attempted residential arson, Chicago Police said. Also charged were Christian Camarena, 19; and Garcia’s live-in boyfriend, a 17-year-old boy related to Camarena.

Manuel’s malnourished, partially burned body was found by firefighters covered in a charred, blue blanket inside the vacant home where Garcia, her 17-year-old lover and his older brother were seen entering moments before with a container of lighter fluid, authorities said.

Christian Camarena | Chicago Police

Christian Camarena | Chicago Police

Manuel was so tiny, investigators first mistook him for a 9-month-old baby, Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini told Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil at a bond hearing last month.

The firefighters who came upon the small fire in the basement of the two-story house also saw the can of lighter of fluid next to the boy’s body.

Manuel had been discovered dead days before on July 29 in the stench-filled backroom where his mother kept him in the home she shared with her children, boyfriend and Camarena in the 6400 block of South Wolcott, authorities said.

When she found her son naked and not breathing, Garcia had one of her other five children check Manuel’s heartbeat and pulse, Santini said. Garcia later told police she tried to resuscitate Manuel by putting his lifeless body in the shower.

Fearing that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services would take her other children away, Garcia and her boyfriend washed Manuel’s body, put clothes on him, and wrapped him in the towel, Santini said.

Eventually, the couple put his body into the trunk of a car, Santini said.

When Garcia was finally ready to dispose of the body, she sent her children to stay with family members while she, her boyfriend and Camarena drove a mile to the abandoned home in the 1400 block of West Marquette, Santini said.

Garcia, who had been working at an Olive Garden, was arrested shortly after she was seen running from the home, Santini said. Camarena and his brother were nabbed behind the building.

Santini said Garcia admitted what she did in a video-recorded statement, and said she didn’t seek medical attention for Manuel or call police because she didn’t want DCFS involved.

Garcia is being held in the Cook County Jail on a $2 million bond. Camarena was ordered held on $1 million, and his younger brother was ordered held in custody on the same charges by a Juvenile Court judge, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

—Chicago Sun-Times Wire and Chicago Sun-Times

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