LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors have filed criminal charges against four Los Angeles County social workers in connection with the death of a boy who authorities say suffered horrific abuse at home.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Thursday that the social workers are charged with child abuse and falsifying public records involving 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who died in May 2013. His injuries included a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns. Prosecutors say he was sprayed with pepper spray, burned with cigarettes, beaten and forced to eat his own vomit. An autopsy showed he had bb pellets embedded in his body. The boy’s mother and her partner were arrested in Gabriel’s death and prosecutors announced last summer they will seek the death penalty against the Palmdale couple.
Gabriel’s grandparents filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, contending that the social workers were negligent, missing many chances to save Gabriel’s life and ignoring abuse.
There were more than 60 complaints that he’d been abused before he was found dead.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey says the four social workers are negligent in Gabriel’s death.
Stephanie Rodriguez, 31, Patricia Clement, 65, and their supervisors, Kevin Bom, 36, and Gregory Merritt, 60, face one count of felony child abuse and one count of falsifying records.
“These social workers allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused,” said Lacey.
The Department of Children and Family Services had opened a case on the boy in October 2012.
If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in prison.