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Murdered Children

February 11, 1996

I was shocked by the way statistics on child homicide were presented in "Slayings of Children Decline" (Jan. 31). The fact that 39 children were killed by parents or caretakers in 1994 was presented as some sort of victory for the system. Nearly one-third of those small victims had been referred to protective services, so the county and courts failed these children.

I am also shocked by how many months it has taken the Board of Supervisors to wake up. As the grandmother of Lance Helms (murdered April 6, 1995) I can share my troubling experiences with this board. My daughter Aya (who raised Lance from birth, but passed away five months after his murder) and I went to see the board in May 1995. Mike Antonovich was the only board member to attempt any meaningful action to change things. Nothing, I mean nothing, was done until I met state Sen. Richard Polanco, and Polanco created a special Senate committee to review Lance's case and find ways to prevent this from happening again.

Presiding county juvenile Judge Richard Montes has placed a gag order on my grandson's case, preventing Lance's wonderful social worker from testifying before the Senate committee. Before Lance was murdered, she warned the court that Lance was at "substantial risk" and was being subjected to cruelty in his father's home, but the court ignored her.

The supervisors have a huge child abuse problem on their hands, and it is terrible that it took Lance's death and outrage in Sacramento to make them act. I fear that their sudden interest is for the cameras, and not for real.

GAIL HELMS

Los Angeles

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