GABRIEL FERNANDEZ BRUTALLY TORTURED AND MURDERED BY HIS MOTHER AND HER BOYFRIEND – DCFS IGNORED MORE THAN 60 REPORTS OF ABUSE – CCA0151 – UPDATED 06.03.2014
GABRIEL FERNANDEZ BRUTALLY TORTURED AND MURDERED BY HIS MOTHER AND HER BOYFRIEND – DCFS IGNORED MORE THAN 60 REPORTS OF ABUSE
Gabriel Fernandez was a beautiful 8 year old boy. He deserved a life of love, support and innocence, a life he once had but was ripped from him and shattered. When Gabriel was a month old, his mother turned over custody of the little boy to her parents, saying that “she did not want Gabriel and had no love for the child.” For seven years Gabriel lived happily and safely with his loving grandparents. In October of 2012, Gabriel’s mother enlisted the help of DCFS and regained custody of Gabriel, despite past allegations of abuse and the objections of Gabriel’s grandparents. Gabriel was placed in his mother’s care despite the lack of a court order. DCFS had sent Gabriel to his death, the little man was murdered only 7 months after being taken from his grandparents.
It breaks my heart to know that in the last days of Gabriel’s life, he was shown no love, instead he was beaten, abused, tortured, emotionally destroyed and ignored. This little man spent his final days in fear of when the next blow would come, of when the next humiliation would be forced upon him, all the while hoping and praying for the day that someone would come along and save him from the hell he was living in. That day never came.
On May 22, 2013, emergency medical responders were called to Gabriel’s home, and they found this little man barely breathing. Gabriel’s injuries were severe, extensive and horrifically unbelievable. Amongst others, he was suffering a fractured skull, three broken ribs, burns to his skin, skin that was missing, two of his teeth had been knocked out, cigarette burns, and had BB pellets lodged in his lung and groin. He was covered in bruises and abrasions, and was routinely sent to school with chunks of his hair shaved off, leaving raw sores where the clippers dug into his scalp.
Gabriel also had ligature marks on his ankles and wrists. This beautiful boy was sexually abused as well, talking about being forced to perform oral sex on a relative, continuing to add to the horror. Gabriel was also tortured with humiliation, forced to wear a girl’s dress and other girls’ clothing to school.
Gabriel fought for 2 days to survive, but his little body had been broken beyond repair, and on May 24, 2013, the angels gave Gabriel his wings and brought him home.
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez and his mother’s boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were arrested and charged each with one count of capital murder with the special circumstances of torture. Aguirre told police that on the day Gabriel was taken to the hospital, he had hit the little boy at least 10 times for lying and “being dirty”.
Gabriel’s maternal grandparents, Sandra and Robert Fernandez, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several Los Angeles County agencies, including the Los Angeles County and its sheriff’s department, the Palmdale Unified School District, LA County Department of Children and Family Services and its director, and the LA County Department of Public Social Services. Also named in the lawsuit are four social workers, two of which are supervisors, and welfare fraud investigator, Javier Cruz. One of the social workers stated that they feel no guilt in Gabriel’s death.
Tragically, Sandra, who suffered from a long illness, passed away in January 2014 and joined Gabriel in heaven. Gabriel’s Aunt, Emily Carranza, stated “It took a toll on her. After his death, she just gave up.”
The lawsuit alleges that child welfare workers illegally removed Gabriel from his grandparents’ home where he had lived for most of his life and placed him in his mother’s custody. After ripping Gabriel from the home he knew and throwing him into a living hell, the agency then failed to investigate more than 60 – SIXTY reports of abuse. These reports were made by numerous people including, Gabriel’s teacher, mothers with children in Gabriel’s class, family members and neighbors.
Attached below is the link for an interview with Gabriel’s teacher, Jennifer Garcia, gave speaking about his abuse, the countless reports and the complete lack of action to save Gabriel. She speaks of how Gabriel came to school with markings on his face which were later determined to be from a BB gun. “My first report was from October, and in every single report I made, there was enough information in that report that he should have been removed that first October.”
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said “The red flags were all over the place. They were ignored. It is just inexplicable to me.” Gabriel’s Grandfather stated “I want to know those people that went to that apartment that were sitting there calling my grandson a liar, that he was just making things up.” I would like to know who these people are as well.
One of Gabriel’s neighbors, Claudia Segoviano, said that she and other residents in the apartment complex suspected that Gabriel was being abused for months. “Everybody noticed, because he would come out to take out the trash and wouldn’t talk to anybody.” stated Claudia. She also went on to say that she had noticed greenish bruises on Gabriel’s face, arms and legs many times while he was taking out the trash. Claudia says she wanted to report the abuse, but thought the family was already being investigated for possible abuse allegations. “I wanted to report it, but then when I would want to, I would always see a social worker, so I thought, ‘How can I report it if there’s already somebody involved in it?’. And I saw like one time the cops came when he was all messed up and they left. Gabriel stayed there and they left.” Claudia also spoke of the times where she had witnessed Gabriel wearing a dress and girls’ shoes. “I saw him dressed up in a girl’s dress two times, my Mom said she saw him three times.” Claudia witnessed Fernandez ordering Gabriel down the stairs on one of these occasions. “He was sad, you could tell, like nobody likes to be dressed as the opposite sex. I asked my brother, ‘what happened to him?’ and my little brother said that was a form of punishment.”
On the night before 911 was called reporting Gabriel as unresponsive, neighbors stated they could hear screams and wails, followed by banging sounds coming from the apartment where Gabriel lived.
Now this isn’t just that DCFS failed to act – they did many things that leave Gabriel’s blood directly on their hands. You see, DCFS had previous run ins with Fernandez in the past. Eight separate investigations were opened due to possible abuse in the family including two of Gabriel’s siblings, 10 and 12, and Fernandez had in fact already had another child removed from her care due to abuse. Gabriel’s siblings are now living with their father’s family in Texas.
DCFS released a 121 page file detailing abuse in the home, interviews with the children done only after Gabriel passed. One sibling recounted the events that led up to Gabriel’s murder and the prolonged abuse that they had all been suffering. One portion of the file states “Siblings reported that he and his 12 year old sibling where wrestling and chasing each other when the sibling tripped, fell and hit his left temple on a table in the bedroom. Mother and boyfriend were reportedly informed of what happened and placed the sibling in the shower to wake him up.”
Authorities soon realized exactly how much abuse was being reported, and ignored. Written in the file were statements from another of Gabriel’s siblings. “Child informed the caller that his mother hits him with the buckle end of the belt when he can’t finish his homework. Sometimes bleeds from being hit with the belt buckle.” was scribbled down on October 30, 2013. “Child informed the caller that he has bruises on his back where his mother hit him. Child was worried that his mother was going to hit him later today because he didn’t understand his homework.” The report went on to read that the child demonstrated how to snort cocaine and was being exposed to illicit drugs in the home.
The file also contained information saying that Gabriel’s mother appeared to have confessed to hitting the child with a belt buckle. Fernandez stated she did not know how else to discipline her son.
TIME OUT! There are a thousands, THOUSANDS of ways to discipline a child without hitting and humiliating a child. Let’s see, we have the time out method, we have the naughty chair method (I used to use this method and my exceptionally brilliant son, at the time he was 3 year old, decided the best way to get back at me for putting him in the naughty chair was to stay sitting in it for an extra 10 minutes each time, effectively driving me nuts!), we have the taking away of objects method, the taking away of social events, the taking away the phone, computer and TV method, AND the method my father used that was effective on my sisters and I especially in our teenage years, after giving us hell for whatever stupid thing we did he would force us to sit in the living room next to him for 10 minutes, torture for a teenager who wants nothing more but to slam the door to their bedroom and live in their own world … my Dad is a genius in dealing with teenage girls! OK the point I am making here is that I don’t accept the excuse that this monster had no other way to hurt these tiny, innocent children as discipline, and even further, discipline for things that should never carry a punishment. If they don’t understand their homework, sit down with them and help them work through it – remember we are educating our children, not forcing them in the ultimatum to be brilliant or get beaten. If the child was not doing their homework, then I would definitely consider a nonviolent method of discipline – but here’s the thing. At 8 years old, our precious babies need us to help guide them, this is why we sign their agenda, quiz them on their spelling words and listen to them read. You will know they are doing their homework every night, because you are doing it with them! Alright, time to step down from the soap box before I lose my ever loving mind.
Back to DCFS and the completely disgusting thing that happened next. Each time an investigation was opened, DCFS only met with Fernandez, never assessing any of the children for signs of abuse or interviewing them about their home life without their would abusers intimidating them along the way. Gabriel’s grandparents say that had this been done, they most certainly would have seen the abuse and returned Gabriel to his grandparents.
The Los Angeles County DCFS director Philip Browning stated that the system had in fact failed Gabriel, and more “critical thinking and common sense” are needed to prevent another case like Gabriel’s. I would say that is the understatement of a lifetime, compassion and humanity would be great things for this agency to have and to use to save children, rather than making excuses after a child is murdered on their watch due to their negligence and laziness.
It gets worse. After Fernandez made allegations that her parents were only using Gabriel for money, Javier Cruz visited the home she lived in, the same home where Gabriel was tortured and murdered, and learnt of injuries Gabriel was suffering from, which included a burn on his foot. Instead of reporting these injuries and protecting Gabriel as he should have ….. HE ASKED FERNANDEZ ON A DATE ….. The lawsuit alleges that Cruz, who is a mandated reporter with a moral obligation to report suspected abuse is guilty of a “breach of mandatory duties.” I say lock this guy up and throw away the key before he allows another child to murdered because he is too busy looking for a date instead of doing his job.
In honor of Gabriel, a new project called “Gabriel’s House”, is well under way. Gabriel’s House is a public facility for area youth in Palmdale that gives them a place to learn music, dance, visual arts and photography. These children can paint and play in a safe and encouraging environment. On March 1st, 2014, the ribbon was officially cut and the center opened. A picture of Gabriel hangs on the wall in the house, and his story will be prominently displayed.
Everything about this case angers and hurts me deeply. I have spent a lot of time thinking about Gabriel and shedding tears for this little man. The one thing that completely destroys me and leaves me crumpling to the floor and becoming a sobbing mess is that Gabriel had written about contemplating suicide. At 8 years old he was in so much pain that he wanted to end his own life. At 8 years old he lost his hope and believed that he could not win this war. I can’t think of anything worse than an 8 year old child planning his own death.
While it is true that we will never see equal justice for Gabriel and although there is nothing worth a child’s life, the community is rallying together to do the best thing they can a Gabriel’s memory. They are providing other children with a beacon of hope, providing a SAFE place where they can gather and hang out with their friends, they can just be kids. Celebrating Gabriel’s life, and remembering all of the amazing wonder and love that made him himself, is the very best thing we can do. Use his memory to learn how to further protect children like Gabriel in the hopes of saving another child from suffering the same tragedy. We want everyone to remember Gabriel and to never forget what he lived through – however, we also want everyone to remember Gabriel as a smiling, active, perfect angel. This little man is watching over us now, and I know he is helping guide other vulnerable children to see the light, the lights we have blazing every night to Light Their Way Home.