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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.

Map shows location of Viola Vanclief's homicide in the 100 block of E. Gage Avenue in Florence and 42 other homicides that have taken place within one mile of the location since January 2007. Click for more information on The Times' interactive Homicide Report. 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

Comments () | Archives (8)

So is the governor going to approve another $20 million for this child's estate like for that one white girl? Or does this baby not qualify?


Should we be surprised that the animals that work for child services are unable to recognize an unfit parent when they see one?

I read this over and over and over again, this women who beat this child dwith a hammer had 5 previous abuse case, is someone nuts, why are they giveing her children to take care of, is the county so inept they would give this women 6 children to abuse. I would love to take a child and care for it, I am not perfect, but I can feed, clothe,and take care of a child and not hit it in the head with a hammer.
How do I take care of a child, I will be good and kind and maybe sometimes strick when it comes to manners but the child will be alive.

My God. What is going on in this world where someone would want to beat an innocent 2-year old to death with a hammer? To call these sub-human beings "animals" just doesn't cut it. "Animals" do not visciously kill out of hate, anger or malice. Humans are supposed to be compassionate and reasonable.

These sub-humans need to be put down.

What does one case have to do with the other?
Please read the stories before making stupid statements.

one word for people like this SICK!!!

Poor baby. Makes me sick. You would think that with the background checks that these foster families have to go through that they would be somewhat upstanding and not the beasts that they were. On another note-I think people should know that not only social workers make decisions regarding people who should probably not be having kids in the first place. Sometimes social workers have recommended that kids be taken out of homes and judges rule against them and release them back to their parents. Now who is to really blame? When there is tragedy, which there always will be, it's easier to just blame someone than to deal with the awful truth that some things are just out of anyone's control and people are sometimes terrible stupid beings. Maybe if people started to be better parents to these social misfit children, who have done these terrible crimes to others, we could change all this violence with just one child at a time. It seems to me that people are just too selfish and fail to focus on what is in front of them, their own children, and so we are dealing with a world of attention at any cost children. Social workers are constantly working their butts off, missing their own kids team practices because they are out saving other children. It's always an emergency...whether it is because they are afraid of board of supervisors getting on their case (and isn't it funny that one of the very negatively vocal board of supervisor's sister was a social worker! Wonder if her sister was any good or is their some sisterhood frustration really going on? Social Workers are tormented with the horrific stories of children being abused on a daily basis and no one seems to care or to say thak you. Firemen are heroes. Police Officers are always backed by some public official. Social Workers go in to scary situations, and save lives everyday too. Do social workers make as much money as firemen, police officers or even someone else who has a Master's Degree from college--don't think so! So here it is...thank you social workers...


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