LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- A Los Angeles County judge on Thursday dismissed the case against four social workers who were charged in connection with the torture death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez after being directed to do so by a California appeals court.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had filed the charges of child abuse and falsifying records against social workers Stefanie Rodrigez, 35, and Patricia Clement, 59, as well as their respective supervisors, Kevin Bom, 41, and Gregory Merritt, 64, in April 2016, almost three years after the Palmdale boy’s death.
Prosecutors alleged they mishandled evidence of abuse the boy faced at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, and missed repeated red flags, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The new action came after the state 2nd District Court of Appeal tossed the charges against the social workers, ruling the four “never had the requisite duty to control the abusers and did not have care or custody of Gabriel,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fernandez died in May 2013 after suffering months of horrific abuse and torture at the hands of his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, according to prosecutors.
TRUE CRIME DAILY: Gabriel Fernandez case coverage - TCD
He was beaten, whipped, burned with cigarettes, shot with a BB gun, forced to eat cat litter and feces, and locked in a box for days, according to prosecutors and witness testimony at the trial. By the time he was hospitalized shortly before his death, Gabriel had numerous injuries, including a cracked skull and broken ribs. BB pellets were found in his lung and groin.
Aguirre was sentenced to death after being convicted by a jury of first-degree murder with a special circumstance of torture. Fernandez received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and admitting to a special circumstance allegation of intentional murder by torture.