4 LA County social workers to stand trial in death of 8-year-old boy

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Four social workers charged in the 2013 death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy will stand trial, a Los Angeles County judge ruled.

Former social workers Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement, and their supervisors, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, were each charged with one count of child abuse and one count of falsifying public records, both felonies, in connection with the death of Gabriel Fernandez.

Four Los Angeles County social workers charged after a boy's beating death appear in court on Thursday, April 7, 2016.

Gabriel Fernandez, who prosecutors said was the victim of repeated abuse, suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and had been shot with a BB gun. He was declared dead on May 24, 2013.

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Defense attorney James Barnes said his client Gregory Merritt had no knowledge of the abuse because it happened weeks before the child was killed and the case had been closed.

"They can only act on information that was reported to them," Barnes said.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez and Clement falsified reports that should have documented signs of Gabriel Fernandez's extensive abuse. They said the case workers ignored evidence including calls made by the victim's teacher.

They said the other defendants, Bom and Merritt, should have known they were approving false reports that conflicted with evidence of the harm Gabriel Fernandez was suffering.

"The child's welfare is their main job, and if they're not doing their main job then what are we doing? What are we paying them for? Why are they there?" said Amanda Nevarez, who a family member of the victim.

The boy's mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, and her former boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were both charged with capital murder in his death.

Rodriguez, Clement, Bom and Merritt were scheduled to be arraigned on April 3.
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