LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The short and tortured life of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez is told through the eyes of his first-grade teacher Jennifer Garcia.
“He asked is it normal to bleed when you’re hit and I said ‘no,’ ” Garcia said.
Garcia testified she noticed bruises on Gabriel’s face, chunks of hair missing and scabs on his scalp seven months before his death in 2013. She says she reported the suspected abuse and soon received a call from social worker Stefanie Rodriguez.
“I told her about the belt and not wanting to go home,” Garcia said.
Garcia testified Rodriguez told her she would investigate the allegations. Now Rodriguez is one of four social workers charged with child abuse and falsifying records in Gabriel’s case.
Prosecutors say the defendants minimized his injuries and allowed Gabriel to stay at home with his mother while the abuse escalated.
Gabriel’s mother and her boyfriend are charged with his murder. According to the autopsy, the 8-year-old had a cracked skull, broken ribs, burns, bruises, and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin.
Garcia testified in January of 2013 that Gabriel came to school with a swollen face and tiny bruises all over his face. She asked him what happened.
“He said: ‘My mom shot me in the face with a BB gun.’ ”
Garcia testified she reported the abuse over and over, voicemails to Rodriguez went unanswered and Gabriel was allowed to stay with his mother. The first-grade teacher also testified that every time his home was visited by a social worker, the abuse got worse.
Three months after telling his teacher about being shot with the BB gun, Gabriel Fernandez was dead.