LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — State lawmakers called for an investigation of three county child welfare agencies Tuesday, in the wake of the murder of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was beaten to death in his home despite multiple investigations and an open abuse complaint.
Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) announced that they would ask for an audit of agencies in Los Angeles, Orange and Sacramento counties.
The two will call for the investigation at a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing set for tomorrow.
The Los Angeles Times obtained internal documents last week that show at least six complaints of child abuse and brutality were made to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on behalf of Gabriel Fernandez, 8. According to these confidential documents, county authorities failed to intervene, even despite calls from the young boy’s teacher.
“Children like Gabriel rely on adults to keep them safe and advocate for their needs,” said Gatto. “The death of an 8-year-old boy, whose abuse and neglect was known by officials, is not just unacceptable — it’s horrifying.”
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the boy was tortured by 32-year-old Isauro Aguirre, his mother’s boyfriend. He suffered a broken skull and ribs, as well as cigarette burns, abrasions on his ankles and bruises all over his body, including from BB pellets lodged in his lungs and groin.
He died in the hospital May 22.
The child’s mother is accused of doing nothing to stop the beating. Investigators said she admitted to being in the apartment at the time.
“Gabriel had shown up to school with injuries consistent with severe beatings, had told authorities that his parents beat him regularly, and that he contemplated suicide,” said Gatto.
The report by the Los Angeles Times found that at the time of the boy’s death, an open complaint with the child welfare agency had been pending for over 60 days.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich has called for an investigation into the county social workers and supervisors involved in the boy’s case. Four of the employees have been put on desk duty.The
The boy’s mother, 29-year-old Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend are charged with one count each of capital murder with the special circumstance of torture. They are being held without bail.
Prosecutors have reportedly not yet determined if they will seek the death penalty.
In a statement, Assemblyman Gatto also referred to the case of a Sacramento woman whose 5-month-old baby was taken by child protective services after she sought a second opinion from a doctor when considering risky heart surgery.
A rally is planned for Wednesday morning in Sacramento before the hearing.
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