Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her 32-year-old boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, sit behind bars charged with murder in the fatal beating death of Fernandez's 8-year-old son Gabriel.
County officials are wondering what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. The Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and sheriff's deputies had been repeatedly called to the Palmdale apartment the boy shared with his mother and two siblings. Sheriff's officials say anonymous tips to the DCFS hotline led them to the child's home. They say they had responded to complaints that Gabriel being physically abused.
"Here you have a mother who allows her son to be murdered by her live-in boyfriend, and this child had been subject to all types of brutality in the past," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. "There had been referrals from the school, the sheriff's department had responded, the DCFS had that as a case, and yet there was a breakdown in which this child was left in this home to be murdered."
"We have the authority in the sheriff's department to do emergency protective custody of the child and then turn him over to the Department of Children and Family Services," said Sheriff's Captain Don Ford. "Department of Children and Family Services has a little more authority than us to take kids out of homes, but certainly if we had known this level of abuse, the kid would have been removed from the home."
County officials say they do not know why the child was not removed from the home after repeated past reports of abuse, but they intend to get answers.
"Complete breakdown -- we want to see what the response was from the social worker, their immediate supervisors, what was their response, how was it handled? And why was it handled with neglect and actually resulting in his death?" said Antonovich.
"I don't care whether it's DCFS or us or whoever, somewhere this kid shouldn't be dead and we got to find out if there is any way that we missed anything," said Ford. "Even if anybody didn't do anything really wrong, but if we just didn't have the right procedures in place, or whatever, we need to fix it."
An autopsy of the boy has not yet been performed.