Angel was "a loner" who never fit in, Garcia said, and neither he nor Montiel warmed up to him. It didn't help, he said, that the boy was close to Pruitt.
"He looked at us like, 'Who the hell are you guys?' " he said.
Whenever Angel got hurt while alone with Montiel, Garcia said, she always had an explanation: He'd fallen, or hit his head on a crib, or lost his teeth to a rocking horse.
It wasn't that social workers missed the injuries, said a child welfare expert who reviewed the file at The Times' request. But they might have interpreted them differently had they been better trained, and department policy did not require them to probe further.
"When we teach risk assessment, these are exactly the kind of phrases we look for," said Jorja Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare at UCLA. "Children do not fall this way, children do not lose teeth this way."