LANCASTER – After 12-year-old Everardo Simental Jr. was killed in a horrific traffic crash last year, fundraisers were launched to help pay for his burial. Donation jars were placed at stores around town, an online campaign was created, and several people gave monetary donations directly to his mother, Heidi Velasquez, according to family friend Kayla Prosser.
“I know a couple of people that gave her $200 and I gave her $100 myself,” Prosser said, adding that a woman from out of state also spoke of giving Velasquez a $500 donation.
“I know some churches donated to her too, and I know somebody donated a suit for him to be buried in,” Prosser said.
Nearly three weeks after his death, loved ones held a service at the Bel Air Estates mobile home park in Lancaster to remember the 12-year-old, who was known as Junior to his friends and family.
At the informal memorial service, Velasquez announced that her son had been buried in Mexico alongside his father, according to Prosser. Velasquez continued to collect donations to send to Junior’s family in Mexico, and a donation jar at the service was stuffed with money, Prosser said.
“There was at least $300 in the jar when I left the memorial service,” Prosser said.
But the story about Junior’s burial unraveled this week when the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office tracked down Junior’s former foster mother about claiming the 12-year-old’s body.
“Junior has been sitting at the morgue for two months while the [biological] mother collects funds from people,” Prosser said. “When I first heard it I was sick. I was already distraught because he died so young and he had his whole life ahead of him.”
Friends demanded an explanation, and Velasquez said it was all a misunderstanding, according to Stevo Lakios. Lakios pointed to an online message from Velasquez stating the body had been transported to Mexico for burial, but was sent back because there was no permit. View it here.
Not so, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
“The body is still here, it’s been here the whole time,” said Los Angeles County coroner’s Capt. John Kades, when asked Thursday afternoon if the 12-year-old’s body had ever been transported to Mexico since his death on Nov. 21, 2014. As of Thursday afternoon, there was a request for “County Disposition,” Kades said.
“The disposition is for people with either no family, or the family is indigent and has no funds to afford a private burial or cremation, or the family abandons the body,” Kades said. “The paperwork has been sent out and it’s going through that process. Generally speaking, it takes at least two to three months before the body is cremated once that process starts.”
Friends and others who donated money for Junior’s burial are now upset.
“People want to know what she did with that money,” Prosser said. “She used this for her own personal gain and I think it’s sick. She should be exposed because she’s still asking people for money.”
When contacted by telephone Thursday, Velasquez denied receiving donations for her deceased son.
“First of all, nobody gave me anything for my son. This is nobody’s business, this is a family matter. Do not call me again!” Velasquez said, before ending the call.
But the family matter has been made public by concerned residents who are now rallying to ensure a proper burial for the 12-year-old boy. Palmdale resident Anell Moreno created a “Justice for Junior” Facebook page.
“This story touched my heart because it’s a kid,” Moreno said. “It pisses me off that the mom is warm and cozy for the holidays, while her son’s body is in a freezer – and she’s lying to everybody! How could she sleep at night?”
Moreno said she has been contacted by Velasquez since creating the “Justice for Junior” Facebook page.
“She contacted me saying that she could call the cops on me for harassment, but I’m not harassing her,” Moreno said. “When that little boy is laid to rest I will stop. I just want her son to rest in peace.”
Junior’s paternal family members have now stepped in. An aunt in Texas, Ana Simental, said she contacted the coroner’s office this week after someone called her and said her nephew’s body was still at the morgue. Simental said Junior’s paternal grandparents in Mexico had not received any money from Velasquez, and they were not aware of any plans for Junior’s burial in Mexico nor had they made any arrangements to receive the body. Simental said she is now communicating with Velasquez and the coroner’s office to try to get her nephew’s remains to Mexico to be buried alongside his father.
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