Disturbing details on the abuse suffered by an 8-year-old boy at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend have been revealed.
Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre have been charged with the murder of Fernandez's son, Gabriel, KNBC reported. A forensic nurse told the grand jury that the child's wounds were "not normal of a little 8-year-old boy."
Photos of Gabriel's injuries were released as part of exhibits. The judge released the photos against the defense team's petitions to not disclose the evidence.
"This will show part of the full extent Gabriel went through," Amanda Nevarez of the support group Gabriel's Justice told KNBC.
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The abuse on 8-year-old Gabriel lasted for months, according to court documents. His teachers reported seeing bruises on the boy, including BB gun pellets on his face.
A security guard had called authorities to report that Gabriel had cigarette burns all over his scalp, the Los Angeles Times reported. The security guard was told by a sheriff's deputy that a child being burned was not an emergency, according to court records.
When a deputy was sent to check up on Gabriel, the deputy decided that the boy's injuries came from falling off of a bicycle, according to reports.
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School officials contacted authorities again to report that Gabriel had been absent for a long period of time, and that he might be a victim of child abuse. When deputies contacted the boy's mother, she told them Gabriel had moved to Texas. The department halted their investigation soon after.
But Gabriel was still in Palmdale. The child was reportedly beaten with a bat, shot with a BB gun, locked in a small box, starved, and forced to eat cat feces, prosecutors said.
Gabriel died a week after the department's final investigation. Prior to his death, the child wrote about wanting to take his own life, court records show. The notes were given to his social worker at the time.
"Gabriel didn't receive any support in our eyes when he was alive and after death he should," Nevarez said.
Several agencies had been looking into whether Gabriel was being physically or even sexually abused at the time, court documents show. Still, the boy was never removed from the home.
The murder case has led to reforms in the Los Angeles County welfare system, including a new Office of Child Protection.
Four social workers have been fired, but none of the nine deputies involved in Gabriel's case have been criminally charged. They all still work for the sheriff's department. Prosecutors said some of the officers were disciplined internally.
“Law enforcement treats these crimes like second-class crimes,” Dan Scott, a retired sheriff’s sergeant and longtime child abuse investigator, told the Los Angeles Times. “Cops believe it is a social worker’s job. They are looking for a reason to clear the case, and as a police officer, you have got to treat child abuse like any other crime.”
Fernandez and Aguirre are now facing life in prison.