A judge has dismissed charges against four social workers who stood accused of failing to intervene and protect 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez before his death, as per reports.
The young boy, from Antelope Valley, Los Angeles was tortured to death in 2013 by his mother and her boyfriend. The case was featured in the Netflix documentary “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez”, evoking ire and fury from the general public.
Back in March of 2016, four social workers, Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, and their supervisors, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, were charged with one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with Gabriel Fernandez’s death.
Yet the four will not face the justice system, as on January 6 the appellate court panel found that they “never had the requisite duty to control the abusers and did not have care or custody of Gabriel”.
Associate Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney agreed that the four could not be charged with child abuse, but wrote her own opinion arguing that they could be prosecuted as public officers.
She explained: “Allowing a social worker to evade liability for falsifying a public document would incentivize social workers to put their own interests in avoiding liability for their misdeeds above the purpose of the state’s child welfare statutory scheme, which is child safety.
“The petitioners’ actions here prevented the system from working in whatever way it might have had they done their jobs honestly, and offers no incentive for either DCFS or individual social workers to work to reform and repair the parts of the system that may fail the children it is intended to protect,” she added. “We have, in effect, encouraged DCFS and its social workers to cover their tracks if they stumble on the cracks in the system.”
An autopsy on Gabriel found that the boy had a fractured skull, several broken ribs and burns covering much of his body. His teacher said that she had called Rodriguez multiple times to report that Gabriel told her that his mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, punched him and shot him in the face with a BB gun.
Fernandez was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and admitting the torture allegation, while her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, was sentenced to death in June 2018 after being convicted of first-degree murder.
Rest in peace, little Gabriel! We hope you’re safe in the Lord’s arms now.
Share this article to pay tribute to this poor little boy, and to ensure his story never dies, but is rather kept in public memory so it never happens again.