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Judge Dismisses Charges Against LA County Social Workers In Death Of Gabriel Fernandez

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A judge on Thursday dismissed charges against four Los Angeles County social workers accused in the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.

A statement from L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey's office Wednesday disclosed that charges against social workers Stefanie Rodriguez, 35, and Patricia Clement,69, and their respective supervisors, 41-year-old Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt, 64, would be dismissed in response to the ruling of an appellate court court earlier this year.

They each faced one felony count of child abuse and one felony count of falsifying public records in the May 2013 killing of Fernandez.

"By order of the The Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One, this court has been directed to vacate its previous order," L.A. County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli said Thursday.

Lomeli Thursday said consideration of whether the four workers' state licenses would be reinstated would be decided at a later time.

Back in February, Lacey said that "state law is not on our side'' in the case of the four defendants after a three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Lomeli should have granted the defense's motion to dismiss the case.

After the appellate court panel refused Jan. 23 to reconsider its ruling, the District Attorney's Office opted not to ask the California Supreme Court to review the case.

Gabriel Fernandez DL
8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez (pictured), died in March 2013 after documents showed at least six complaints of child abuse and brutality were filed with Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). (credit: CBS)

The Palmdale boy died from months of abuse meted out by his mother and her boyfriend because they believed he was gay, prosecutors said.

Emily Carranza, Gabriel's cousin, has been fighting for justice since the 8-year-old's death. She said she is discouraged by the court's decision.

"They had a job to do. They should've done it but failed," she said of the social workers. "The statement the appellate court made was Gabriel was not in the custody of DCFS. It was their job to remove him...had they taken custody and removed him from the home, yes, Gabriel would be alive."

In 2018, Lomeli sentenced the boy's mother, Pearl Sinthia, to life in prison without possibility of parole and issued a death sentence to Isauro Aguirre, calling the abuse "horrendous, inhumane and nothing short of evil."

Gabriel was repeatedly beaten, starved, tied up, locked in a cabinet, shot with a BB gun and once had his teeth knocked out with a bat, the judge said. The boy also had a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns across his body.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Corp. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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