Palmdale couple accused of torturing, killing child due in court
A Palmdale mother and her boyfriend are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in the torture and beating death of the woman’s 8-year-old son.
Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 32, are each charged with murder and a special circumstance of torture.
In May, Gabriel Fernandez was discovered unconscious with a skull fracture, several broken ribs, cigarette burns and abrasions around his ankles that indicated he may have been tied up. He later succumbed to his injuries.
The injuries suggested the boy had been tortured, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said.
During police interviews, Aguirre admitted causing the injuries to the child, and Fernandez admitted she was present and did not intervene during the assault, authorities say.
Both are ineligible for bail because it is a capital murder case.
Fernandez came to the attention of county social workers a year ago when her oldest son suffered a head injury during a car accident. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, prompting an allegation of severe neglect, according to county records.
A year later, a relative reported that Fernandez had beaten the same son and did not want him, but social workers decided the complaint was unfounded.
Gabriel was born in 2005 and went to live with relatives soon thereafter. He had little interaction with his mother for years, relatives said, and the two barely acknowledged each other at family gatherings.
Fernandez later told social workers she had a history of gang involvement, drug use and mental-health problems.
In 2007, social workers received a complaint that Fernandez was neglecting to feed one of her daughters and had threatened to break the girl’s jaw when she cried.
In October, relatives said Fernandez suddenly reclaimed Gabriel and two siblings from her parents. Emily Carranza, Gabriel’s cousin, alleged “it was for the welfare money.” Fernandez told social workers she was concerned about the treatment of her son by relatives.
Within days, a call came to the child-abuse hotline alleging Fernandez was physically abusing the children. Social workers determined there was neglect in the home but allowed Fernandez to keep her children and enter counseling.
The following month, a teacher said Gabriel had scratches and a “busted lip,” which the boy attributed to being punched by his mother, records show.
In January, the teacher said the boy’s face was swollen and that he had bruised dots all over his face. She said Gabriel told her that his mother had shot him in the face with a BB gun, according to county records.
During the investigations, Gabriel often recanted his stories of abuse. An internal county review criticized social workers for failing to interview Gabriel in a neutral setting away from his mother.
In March, Gabriel’s therapist called 911 after discovering a suicide note he had written. Authorities dismissed the complaint without removing him or hospitalizing him because he had no specific plan to carry out a suicide, records show.
The same month, Gabriel’s mother ended contact with county social workers, saying she did not need their help.
Some of the social workers involved in Gabriel’s case were fired last month.
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