Foster mother, boyfriend arrested in connection with hammer-beating death of 2-year-old girl
Los Angeles police have arrested a foster mother and her boyfriend in connection with the March death of 2-year-old foster child Viola Vanclief.
Kiana Barker, 30, was arrested Thursday and authorities have charged her with dissuading a witness, child abuse and murder, according to Los Angeles police. Barker's bail was set at $1.1 million.
James Julian, 38, surrendered to police on Saturday and faces charges of dissuading a witness and accessory to murder. He is being held in lieu of $1.6 million bail.
Both had been under suspicion since Viola's death on March 4. Barker told authorities that Viola had been caught in a bed frame and was accidentally hit with a hammer while she tried to free the toddler, according to coroner's records. No immediate medical care was sought for her, according to the coroner's initial information.
Barker and Julian initially were arrested March 9 in connection with Viola's death and were released two days later, with no charges filed. At the time, police said they were continuing to investigate.
Prior to Viola's death, Barker had been the subject of five previous child-abuse complaints, including one substantiated allegation that she had severely neglected her own biological child in 2002, confidential records show.
Julian, who is known as "Big Bird," was convicted in 1992 of armed robbery, according to court records.
The couple's troubled history raised questions about how Barker could have been approved last year as a foster parent by child-welfare authorities. Under state rules, both adults should have been disqualified from caring for or living with foster children.
The foster-family agency that certified Barker, United Care, has seen its contract with Los Angeles County terminated.
Since January 2007, at least 57 children whose families had previously come to the attention of L.A. County's Department of Children and Family Services have been killed, according to records obtained by The Times. Those deaths include cases of abuse and neglect, as well as gang-related shootings.
-- Garrett Therolf
Photo: A map shows the location of Viola Vanclief's homicide in the 100 block of E. Gage Avenue in Florence, as well as 42 other homicides that have taken place within one mile of the location since January 2007. Credit: Homicide Report