Page A2 (above the fold) 5/28/13
Official wants child services inquiry
By: Charles F. Bostwick
PALMDALE – Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich wants an investigation into county child-welfare workers’ handling of the case.
Antonovich asked county Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip L. Browning to investigate all social workers and supervisors who had any involvement with the boy, aides said Monday.
“We need to know where the breakdown was in the services recommended and why this child was not removed from those living conditions,” Antonovich said in a statement released by his office.
The mother of the boy and her boyfriend are in jail awaiting prosecutors to file charges, which is expected to happen today. The boy’s name has not been released by authorities but neighbors knew him as Gabriel.
Pearl Fernandez, 29, the boy’s mother, was booked on suspicion of child abuse and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail. Boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 32, who neighbors believed worked as a supermarket security guard, was booked Thursday before the boy’s death on suspicion of attempted murder and was jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Authorities went to the apartment in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 near Division Street about 11 p.m. Wednesday after receiving a telephone call reporting a child not breathing. Los Angeles County firefighters found the boy with numerous injuries indicative of child abuse, sheriff’s officials said.
A sheriff’s statement said Aguirre admitted to causing the injuries and Fernandez admitted to being present and not intervening.
The woman’s other children, a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were taken into protective custody by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Neither of the older children bore any apparent signs of abuse, deputies said.
Neighbors said they had seen the 8-year-old with what appeared to be cigarette burns, scratches and other injuries in the past and that sometimes he was dressed as a girl, which some thought was done as punishment. They also said they had not seen him outside for two or three weeks but thought he was in the apartment.
Palmdale School District Superintendent Roger Gallizzi said that the boy had not been at school for two weeks, and authorities who checked on his absence were told he had gone to Texas to stay with his grandmother.
The boy’s teacher had previously notified child-welfare officials when he had shown up at school with bruises, so when he wasn’t at school May 9, but his older brother and sister were, a sheriff’s deputy was asked to check at the family’s apartment, Gallizzi said Friday.
At the apartment, the deputy was told the boy “had gone to Texas with his grandmother,” Gallizzi said.
About 50 friends and family members protested Monday afternoon outside the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station in memory of Gabriel.
“These people, they didn’t do a good job,” Robert Fernandez, Gabriel’s maternal grandfather, said as he stood on the sidewalk along Sierra Highway near the station.
Fernandez said he and his wife Sandra called the sheriff’s department, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies on behalf of their grandson.
“We’re not only here for him, we’re here for others,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez and his wife raised Gabriel for eight years. Their daughter, Pearl Fernandez, had him for about four months, he said.
Staff Writer Julie Drake contributed to this story.