Social workers cleared after mum tortured her eight-year-old son to death because she thought he was gay
Paramedics arrived to the house to find the eight-year-old boy not breathing. His skull was cracked, three ribs broken and his skin bruised and burned.
Two of his teeth were missing, BB pellets punctured his lungs and groin and he was found naked in his bedroom. He died just two days later.
All because his mother and her boyfriend suspected him of being gay for playing with dolls.
Social workers accused of ‘minimising’ had no power to control the boy’s abusers, justices rule.
A panel of three judges ruled that social workers Stefanie Rodriguez, 34, and Patricia Clement, 69, should not face child abuse charges over the killing of the child.
The child’s supervisors were also cleared by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal in Palmdale, California.
Months of torture had been meted out by Fernandez’s mother and boyfriend, both of whom are expected to carry out life sentences.
But the case took a twist in 2016 when the district attorney’s office charged the former Department of Children and Family Services employees. It was the first time in recent memory that child workers were criminally charged for mishandling a case.
The social workers, as well as supervisors Kevin Bom, 40, and Gregory Merritt, 64, faced felonies of child abuse and falsifying public records.
In a 2-1 decision filed Monday, the justices ultimately ruled that, because the allegations against the four social workers were based on their “alleged nonfeasance”, prosecutors had to prove that the workers had the ability and duty to control the abusers.
The court concluded that the workers “never had the requisite duty to control the abusers and did not have care or custody of Gabriel,” according to the opinion.
Los Angeles County District Attorney prosecutors have yet to say whether they will appeal Monday’s decision to dismiss the charges against officials, ABC7 reported.
Gabriel Fernandez: Guardians thought he was gay, so he was made to eat cat excrement.
Records showed that child services left Fernandez in the home despite six investigations into abuse allegations involving his mother in the last decade.
Gabriel Fernandez had even penned a note saying he was contemplating suicide, records showed, while teachers long reported of the boy arriving to school bruised and beaten.
In 2016, prosecutors argued that the employees minimised “the significance of the physical, mental and emotional injuries that Gabriel suffered […and] allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused”.
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Prosecutors first pounced on the workers as the trial of mother Pearl Fernandez, 35, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 38, concluded in 2018, with Fernandez sentenced to life without parole and Aguirre sentenced to death.
Jurors were told of the sickening series of abuse the boy’s mother and boyfriend inflicted upon him all because they assumed he was gay.
Forged doctor’s noters and lies to authorities hid their tracks, enabling them to force Fernandez to eat cat faeces, his own vomit and rotten spinach.
Beaten with metal hangers, belt buckles, wooden clubs and small batts as well as doused with pepper spray.
He was later forced to sleep in a locked cabinet and wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom. When going to school, his mother would send him in girl’s clothing, Fernandez’s siblings, both minors, claimed.