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Palmdale boy's abuse death: lawmakers call for investigation

June 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Outrage over the beating death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy spreads to the state capitol. Why did warning signs go unheeded? Two lawmakers are calling for an investigation.

A small group of people rallied Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol calling for reform within child protective service agencies statewide. Some state lawmakers are demanding an audit of county agencies responsible for protecting children.

State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) say lapses in the tragic case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez is just one example of why these agencies need to be investigated.

Fernandez was allegedly beaten on a regular basis and died from his injuries.

"We are calling for a full audit into the seizure practices of CPS, statewide, and the auditor will ultimately select which counties, but the headlines may lead the auditor to some of the most egregious cases," said Donnelly.

Fernandez died last month after being allowed to remain in his home by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. This despite six investigations into abuse allegations involving the boy's mother over the last decade.

The victim's mother, 29-year-old Pearl Fernandez, and her 32-year-old boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre are charged with murder in the beating death of the child.

"We dropped the ball in this situation," said Philip Browning, director of the L.A. County Dept. of Children and Family Services. "That we had workers who looked at the situation, and in my estimation we didn't use critical thinking skills in those instances."

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has called for an investigation into how the Department of Children and Family Services handled the Fernandez case.

Browning says he welcomes any statewide audit and his department has already submitted preliminary reports to county officials and continues to investigate the tragedy.

"We've had folks working just about 24 hours a day to identify all the hard-copy records, all of the information we can from individuals and organizations that had contact with this situation," said Browning. "We have a more thorough report which we're going to be discussing with the Board of Supervisors within the next two days."

L.A. County Dept. of Children and Family Services officials say two supervisors and two workers within the department who were involved with the victim's case have been taken off the street and placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation.


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