The father arrested on suspicion of killing two of his four young children has a criminal history along with a string of domestic violence cases and had lost custody of his children last year, court documents reveal.
Prospero Serna was detained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Sunday for allegedly killing two of his four biological children, who were discovered by authorities after their mother made a frantic 911 call directing deputies to an apartment in Lancaster, according to the department.
All four children were found in a bedroom with lacerations, and two died after being taken to a hospital. The other two were in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries. Their names and ages were not immediately released.
On Monday, the Sheriff's Department announced it had enough evidence to charge Serna with killing the two children. His booking was delayed by the fact that Serna was not cooperating with deputies, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Court documents show he had a troubled history with the law since at least 2006, when a restraining order was filed against him in San Bernardino County, according to court records.
That same year he was charged with contempt of court and disobeying a court order, though it is not clear if that was related to the previous harassment case. He was eventually convicted in 2009 of a lower charge of failure to appear after he posted a written promise to appear.
In Los Angeles, a woman filed for a restraining order in a domestic violence prevention case involving minor children in 2007. There were no documents immediately available in that case, and it was not clear whether the restraining order was granted.
Serna was charged in 2014 in San Bernardino with battery on a spouse, though the charges were dismissed three years later in the interest of justice, according to court records.
In 2016, Serna was again hit with a temporary restraining order that said he could not harass, attack or strike another woman who was the mother of his children.
Then in 2021, another temporary restraining order was issued against Serna in a San Bernardino County case involving a man. That order was dismissed a few weeks later.
Serna lost custody of four of his children to their mother in July 2022, according to court documents reviewed by The Times. "Mother is awarded sole legal and sole physical custody of all minors," a judge wrote in the July 13, 2022, order.
Based on those records, the children would now range in age from 3 to 7. Two are 3-year-old twins.
In the Los Angeles County Superior Court order, the judge decided Serna could have "unmonitored visits" with his four children at his own mother's home, as well as monitored visits outside that home.
The judge specified that Serna's visits would not occur at the home of the children's mother. The order did not cite any conduct by Serna for the limited access to his children.
Other criminal cases found in court records include a conviction for causing a fire to a structure or forest.
Serna was active on social media until a few days before his arrest.
He was posting regularly on Facebook about the Israel-Hamas war in October, calling for an end to the violence in the Middle East.
"Ceasefire or the world will be uninhabitable for everyone," Serna said in an Oct. 16 post on what appeared to be his Facebook account.
He had previously posted about his own history with mental health authorities.
"Do u guys remember that time I told u guys I was tortured and injected with different drugs at a mental facility (Arrowhead regional) well I wasnt lying. So don't judge the way I think. How would u think if u were injected by an unknown poison?"
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.