Four Los Angeles county social workers are set to face trial for their part in the heinous treatment and ultimate death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.
Gabriel is the Palmdale, CA boy who was found in May 2013 not breathing with broken ribs, a cracked skull, BB pellets in his lungs and groin, teeth knocked out, and covered in bruises and burns. Gabriel’s mother and her boyfriend are facing capital murder and other charges for his prolonged torture and death.
The case marks the first time in L.A. that county social workers are facing felony charges related to ignoring evidence of repeated abuse, falsifying public records and minimalizing Gabriel’s injuries according to the LA Times.
Today’s ruling came after Gabriel’s first-grade teacher and others testified how their multiple, and escalating concerns went largely ignored by the caseworkers involved, identified as Patricia Clement, Stefanie Rodriguez, as well as supervisors Gregory Merritt and Kevin Bonn.
“Summerwind Elementary School teacher Jennifer Garcia said in the two months before Gabriel’s death, she repeatedly reported to county child service workers new signs of abuse that prosecutors say came at the hands of his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre,” reports the LA Times.
Garcia testified that she saw massive facial bruises and that Gabriel had admitted to her that he was beaten with a belt, and that when he showed up to school with odd bumps on his face, he told her his mom had shot him with a BB gun.
Prosecutors alleged that the social workers ignored the obvious signs that the abuse was getting worse and that the boy should have been removed from the home or the mother brought to court.
Several deputies who conducted welfare checks at the home have also been disciplined, according to the report.
The attorneys for the social workers are contending that they have done nothing wrong and that they are “overworked and understaffed.”
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