Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 32, faced a judge Tuesday in a Lancaster courtroom. They were ordered to be held without bail while they await arraignment June 11.
Gabriel Fernandez, 8, died at Children's Hospital Los Angeles on Friday after suffering serious injuries.
Los Angeles County deputies responded to an apartment on the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 Wednesday following a report that the boy was not breathing. Paramedics discovered the first-grader was suffering from fractures to his skull, several broken ribs, and cigarette burns and cuts to his body. The boy appeared to have been restrained at his wrists and ankles.
The 8-year-old was transported to the hospital in critical condition but succumbed to his injuries two days later.
Detectives said Aguirre admitted to causing Gabriel's injuries. He was arrested Wednesday. Officials said Fernandez admitted to being present while her son was being tortured and abused.
Family and friends say that Gabriel's death could have been avoided. They say they've been filing complaints about the abuse to law enforcement officials and the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services for months.
According to Robert Fernandez, Gabriel's grandfather, county workers went over to the boy's home to see his living arrangements but did nothing. He says he wants answers.
"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," said Robert Fernandez.
Family, friends and other concerned parents protested at the courthouse Tuesday. The demonstrators called for an investigation and change to prevent other children from suffering similar fates.
"My first report was from October," said Jennifer Garcia, Gabriel's teacher. "And in every single report I made, there was enough information in that report that he should have been removed that first October."
Some of Aguirre's family members defended him outside the courtroom.
"Everybody who knew him should know, even her own family knows, he's not guilty," said an Aguirre family member who wanted her identity shielded.
City News Service contributed to this report.