When 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and boyfriend and her boyfriend, they sprayed the victim with pepper spray. They made him eat vomit and put the boy in a cabinet, complete with a sock inside his mouth to drown out his screams. This is according to court records released on Monday.
The testimony of the grand jury was an extensive account of the abuse suffered by the Antelope Valley boy is said to have endured prior to his death in the month of May 2013. The incident has prompted calls for major changes to the troubled Los Angeles County foster-care system as child welfare workers did not manage to expel the child. The officials have taken steps to sack two social workers, and two supervisors, as well as others who were involved in this incident, received letters of caution or a reprimand.
The more than 800 pages of evidence examined through The Times also provide more detailed information about the way that, despite numerous allegations that Gabriel was abused, his trial appeared to be a snub.
Gabriel’s mom, Pearl Fernandez, called 911 on May 22, 2013, to inform her that her son wasn’t breathing. She informed sheriff’s deputies when they arrived at the home that Gabriel fell and struck his head on the dresser, according to evidence. As paramedics arrived, they discovered Gabriel naked in the bedroom, breathing poorly and with a fractured skull as well as three broken ribs and B.B. pellets encased in his groin and lung. Gabriel passed away two days later.
“It was as if every one of these children was victimized,” testified James Cermak, who is a Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic.
Fernandez, 30, as well as their boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, who is 34, is in prison awaiting their trial on charges of capital murder and a particular situation of torture. They have both pleaded not guilty. The attorneys representing them were not available to discuss the case on Monday. Due to the numerous delays in setting the preliminary hearing, prosecutors called an indictment before a grand jury. The indictment was issued on July 28.
Fernandez and Aguirre intentionally beat the boy to death while concealing their tracks using fake medical notes and lies to the authorities, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury. “For eight consecutive months, Hatami was subjected to abuse by beatings and tortured more than other soldiers,” Hatami said.
The abuse grew worse in the weeks that followed Gabriel’s death, According to the testimony of 2 of his brothers, who are minors. They claimed Gabriel was required to eat cat waste as well as rotten spinach, and even himself. He lay in a locked cupboard and was not allowed to use the bathroom. Fernandez and Aguirre were accused of calling Gabriel gay and punishing the boy for playing with dolls and making Gabriel wear girl’s clothes at school, according to the siblings.
Fernandez and Aguirre slashed Gabriel with the buckle of a belt and a hanger made of metal, as well as a small bat, as well as a wooden club, Gabriel’s brother claimed. Their mother once slapped Gabriel into the mouth with bats and knocked several teeth out, According to the evidence.
A number of agencies looked into allegations of abuse prior to Gabriel’s death, but they did not remove Gabriel from his home. Several times, police visited the home of the family or Gabriel’s school in order to examine reports of abuse or reports of the boy’s suicidal behavior. They concluded that each time there was none of the evidence of abuse, and they didn’t write a full report.
Timothy O’Quinn, a sheriff’s murder detective, testified before jurors in the grand jury that there wasn’t any evidence that the officers had taken Gabriel’s clothes to look for indications of abuse.
The family’s home was searched by investigators following the death of Gabriel, who discovered bloodstains and B.B. gun holes, as well as an old wooden club soaked by his blood, as per the testimony of witnesses.
Following Gabriel’s passing in the wake of his death, the Board of Supervisors convened a special commission to examine the county’s response to child welfare concerns. They enacted a reorganization plan which includes the establishment of a “child welfare coordinator” to improve coordination between the various departments that are responsible for safeguarding children and responding to allegations of child abuse.
The county has struggled with the backlog investigation into child abuse for many years. The problem is particularly severe within the Antelope Valley, which is in which Gabriel lives, as a number of the department’s most inexperienced social workers are there working with the most cases.
The day before the fatal assault, Fernandez began to smack Gabriel for refusing to take his toys, his elder brother admitted. He was dragged into the bedroom in which Aguirre was with her. The siblings heard screams and banging, according to him. “And then it all was quiet,” said the brother, 13. “It was silent.”
Gabriel passed away due to blunt force injuries and neglect to children, James Kemp Ribe of the L.A. County coroner’s office informed the grand jury. “I have never seen so the number of skin injuries in the same child before,” he said.
After Gabriel’s birth in 2005, Gabriel was placed in a home with his relatives. On October 12, 2012, Fernandez returned Gabriel as well as two siblings who were older than him from his parents.
A few weeks after Gabriel joined Fernandez, his teacher in the first grade of Summerwind Elementary School contacted social workers to report that Gabriel’s mother struck the boy with her belt buckle, which caused him to bleed. Gabriel was able to prove that he could take cocaine, as she had testified.
Teacher Jennifer Garcia said she had contacted the county a few occasions after her child went back to class with a bleeding lip, bruises, and black eyes around his mouth. The social worker was contacted about the complaint regarding his injured lip and claimed it was a blister, according to the testimony.
In the spring of this year, the counselor from an institution for children dialed 911 after finding an unpublished suicide note that Gabriel had written in his testimony. The authorities dismissed the report since he did not have a specific strategy to commit suicide, as evidenced by the records.
Gabriel’s siblings claimed that their mother had advised them to be honest with social workers who visited to inquire about their welfare. His brother claimed he did it “because I believed she would repeat the same thing with me.”
The week prior to Gabriel’s death, school officials asked for a deputy to investigate his numerous absences and suspected child abuse. The deputy claimed he was given the wrong address, and when he finally reached Gabriel’s mother on the phone, she explained that the son had relocated to Texas with his grandmother.
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