JUSTICE

Social Workers Charged in 8-Year-Old’s Torture Death

Four California social workers have been charged in the 2013 torture death of an 8-year-old boy, officials said Thursday. The group were accused of child abuse and falsifying public records in Gabriel Fernandez’s death after the child was reportedly forced by his mother and her boyfriend to eat his own vomit, doused in pepper spray, and locked in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth. The social workers opened Fernandez’s case more than seven months before he was killed at his Palmdale home, and, said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, “We believe these social workers were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel’s well-being.” She added: “These social workers allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused.” Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement, and their supervisors, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, all had a “legal duty” to protect Fernandez, officials argued.