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Abuse Stories: The Death of Gabriel Fernandez

Gabriel Fernandez

An interview featuring Roger Booth and Carly Sanchez on March 3, 2020, discussing the Gabriel Fernandez story.

The discussion focuses on how these horrendous abuses occur and what we can do to stop them from happening at a later date. This interview responded to the huge number of visitors to our site who have watched the Trial of Gabriel Fernandez on Netflix.

On May 22, 2013, police responded to an urgent call from the residence that belonged to Gabriel Fernandez because the 8-year-old was breathing no more.

As paramedics arrived, they discovered a battered and bruised Gabriel. His skull and ribs were fractured, and BB pellets had been embedded inside his burned and injured skin. In addition, two of his teeth were broken. He was quickly taken to the hospital, but tragically, he died within a few days.

Gabriel Fernandez

Gabriel Fernandez

Why did the California social health system fail to save Gabriel Fernandez?

In the weeks following Gabriel’s tragic loss, there were questions regarding Gabriel’s sad and short life.

In 2003, Gabriel’s mom, Pearl Fernandez, was examined by county social workers on the basis of allegations of severe neglect. Her son and Gabriel, the older sister of Gabriel, were involved in a crash that resulted in her son suffering an injury to his head because the latter was not wearing a seat belt. After a year, an individual complained to Child Protective Services, claiming that Fernandez was beating the child. Social workers said the allegation was not true. Fernandez kept her children.

Following his birth in 2005, Gabriel moved in with her maternal grandmother. In 2007, a second complaint was made against Fernandez, who claimed she failed to feed one of her children and threatened to tear her jaw if she cried. Fernandez was also found guilty of using a weapon recklessly and was ordered to spend two months in a Texas prison.

Despite all that, Fernandez took back custody of Gabriel in October 2012 and told social workers she was worried about how her family members were treating him.

When Gabriel returned home to see his mom in 2012, his teacher started calling social workers and stating that Gabriel’s hands and face were damaged. Following an inquiry, Gabriel attributed these injuries to being smashed by his belt buckle. The next few months, the same teacher reported Gabriel arriving at school with an injured lip, swelling of his face, and bruised spots. Gabriel said his mother attacked and shot him with a BB gun. During investigations, Gabriel retracted his statements since social workers did not question Gabriel with his mother absent.

On March 26, Gabriel’s therapist submitted an official report alleging that Gabriel was forced to have oral sex performed on a family member. Then, he was questioned by his mother in her presence and later denied the claim. The week before his death, his school of Gabriel requested a deputy from the sheriff’s department to examine the matter. However, the deputy stated that he had been given an incorrect address. He claimed that when he got to talk to Fernandez over the phone, she said that Gabriel had relocated to Texas along with his mother.

Following the death of Gabriel after his death, four social workers were dismissed for their inaction. Fernandez and Aguirre have both pleaded guilty to torture and capital murder to try to stay out of the death penalty. Both of them will be imprisoned for their lives with no possibility of appealing or parole. Due to this investigation, LA County changed the way they train, including visits with experienced social workers and real-world scenarios for training to aid social workers in gaining experience before entering the field. However, these changes come way too late for Gabriel Fernandez.

In mid-2018, another child was killed similarly. Anthony Avalos suffered “severe head injuries as well as cigarette burns on the body of his victim” (Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2018). The mother of the child was repeatedly reported for neglect and abuse in the care of Anthony and seven others. The complaints were made by teachers, administrators as well as family members. However, despite numerous investigations, the child was not permanently removed from the home.

Our firm recently secured more than 11,000 million on behalf of two clients from Riverside County. The first one involved a young child who her mom’s boyfriend had repeatedly victimized. She later became pregnant at the age of 13. The county child protective services agency, was able to investigate but did not defend the girl.

The other case involved an infant girl aged two who suffered from extreme neglect, which included being in an apartment where she lived with her defunct newborn sister for two weeks because the County Child Protective Service agency could not intervene.

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