Gabriel Fernandez: 8-Year-Old Boy Was Abused For Months, Nine Deputies Failed To Spot Injuries Or Act Before He Died

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The death of an 8-year-old boy could easily have been averted if nine sheriff deputies had acted. The deputies have not being prosecuted.

According to the Daily Mail, Gabriel Fernandez was tortured for eight months by his mother, Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, in 2013. The young boy was forced to eat his vomit and feces. He was beaten with a bat, doused in pepper spray and burnt with cigarettes. These were only a few of the atrocities he suffered before he died.

At the time, Gabriel Fernandez was being abused, none of the deputies found anything amiss. Even when the 8-year-old boy’s teachers complained about his obvious injuries, which included BB-gun marks on his face, burns on his head and black eyes. Aguirre and Fernandez go on trial in March for the Gabriel’s death. They have been charged with special circumstance of torture and murder.

Gabriel Fernandez was brought up by his grandparents, Robert and Sandra Fernandez. However, in September 2012, their daughter decided that she wanted him back. Her parents fought the claim, arguing that she had a history of abusing her other kids and was battling a drug addiction. The state of California sided with Pearl and Gabriel started living with her. He was enrolled at Summerwind Elementary where teachers noticed the boy was being abused almost immediately.

A teacher, Jennifer Garcia, was told by the boy that he was beaten with a belt buckle until he bled by his mother. The teacher said she called social services who gave the case to one of the case workers, Stephanie Rodriguez, who would subsequently face prosecution for negligence along with three others did nothing substantial. According to the social worker, Gabriel said he was joking.

In November 2012, the situation worsened. Each time, Jennifer Garcia notified a social worker whenever she noticed the boy had been abused. She started lying in her weekly reports because she believed it would whittle down the abuses. In January 2013, Gabriel returned back to school after being absent for a week. His eyes were swollen and there were bruises all over his face. His mother had shot him in the face with a BB gun.

Child welfare records, court documents and a review of grand jury testimony confirmed that deputies visited the boy multiple times when he was being tortured and beaten. But the deputies insisted there were no signs of abuse and did not file any paperwork that would have prompted child abuse investigators to act. Deputy Imelda Rizo went to the Palmdale residence and did not file a report. Another one left the home, filing a report that the young boy was suicidal. The deputy allegedly told Gabriel’s mother to get mental health services for him. He left the home without interviewing or physically examining the boy.

When a security guard reported that Gabriel had bruises on his face and alleged cigarette burns on his scalp, the security guard was scolded by a sheriff’s deputy who screamed that being burned with cigarettes “was not an emergency.” Another deputy who checked on him came to the decision that the injuries were caused when he fell from a bicycle.

The last investigation came seven days before Gabriel was killed. Another deputy had gone to look for the boy after school authorities said he had not been coming to school. The deputy that visited his home was told by the mother, he had moved to Texas. The deputy did not ask any questions and once again failed to file a report for further investigation. Gabriel was still living in the home where he was being locked in a small box, starved of food and forced to eat cat feces.

None of the nine deputies have been criminally charged. But according to the Los Angeles Times, some of them have being disciplined internally. The Sheriff’s Department has refused to provide specifics, citing that state laws do not allow the disclosure of officers that are disciplined. They are still working for the state department.

In the aftermath of Gabriel Fernandez’s death, a series of reforms have been recommended. Some of these reforms are for officers and social workers to share information more as well as training for law enforcement hinging on domestic issues. Deputies are now mandated to file a report for every child abuse call, whether they find evidence or not. Dan Scott, a child abuse investigator revealed patrol cops often saw child abuse as low priority and preferred not to get involved once social workers were handling the case.

“Law enforcement treats these crimes like second-class crimes. Cops believe it is a social worker’s job. They are looking for a reason to clear the case, and as a police officer; you have got to treat child abuse like any other crime.”

On May 22, 2013, deputies responded to a call from Pearl Fernandez that her son was not breathing. She claimed that the boy had fallen while playing. The woman, who is presently 32-years-old, said the bruises on him were self-inflicted and that the missing skin around his neck came from Gabriel vigorously scrubbing the area with a washcloth. A medical examiner who performed an autopsy said he had never seen so many skin injuries on a child. Among many other injuries, Gabriel had a fractured skull, broken ribs and BB pellets in his chest. There was a horrific burn above his groin which had burnt away his skin and exposed soft tissue.

[Featured Image by Mkistryn/iStockPhoto]