Words: Steve Brown
Social workers have been cleared of criminal charges over claims they failed to stop a mother torturing her eight-year-old son over fears he was gay.
On Monday (January 6), a panel of judges ruled that social workers Stefanie Rodriguez, 34, and Patricia Clement, 69, will not face child abuse charges over the killing of Gabriel Fernandez in 2013.
Supervisors Kevin Bom, 40, and Gregory Merritt, 64, were also cleared of any wrongdoing, the Metro reported.
All four social workers faced charges of felony child abuse and falsifying public records, over claims their work was keeping Gabriel safe, despite the abuse escalating.
Announcing the dismissal of charges, Justice Francis Rothschild said: “We conclude that the petitioners never had the requisite duty to control the abusers and did not have care or custody of Gabriel.”
Gabriel Fernandez was admitted to hospital on May 22, 2013 after he was found unresponsive at his mother's home in Palmdale, California.
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 35, was sentenced to life without parole back in 2018 and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, was charged with his murder and sentenced to death.
Pearl reportedly made her young son eat cat faeces over fears he was gay, jurors heard during her trial.
The couple doused the young boy with pepper spray, blasted his privates with a BB gun and forced him to eat his own vomit.
The crime scene expert claimed there were so many dents and bloodstains at the home that she ran out of evidence stickers to mark them all.
Forensic testing also found Fernandez's blood on items all over the house, including a baseball bat, a wooden club and computer cords.
And addressing jurors during Fernandez and Aguirre’s June 2018 trial, prosecutor Jonathan Hatami said: “For eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war.”
After Gabriel was born in 2005, he was sent to live with relatives but was later reclaimed by his mother and her boyfriend.
According to the young boy’s teacher, Gabriel demonstrated how to snort cocaine at school and said his mother had left him bleeding after hitting him with a belt.