Relatives of Gabriel Fernandez – the 8-year-old Palmdale boy who allegedly died at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend – have filed a claim against the county, blaming it for the "wrongful death" of the child, according to documents.
The 17-page claim – first obtained by media partner NBC-LA – details a trail of contact between Gabriel, his mother Pearl Fernandez and workers with the Department of Children and Family Services; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; and the Palmdale Unified School District. Those agencies are named in the complaint, which can be read below. It accuses various government officials of failing to take action to protect the child.
County officials said they are not able to comment on potential litigation. A claim is the first step in filing a lawsuit against a government agency. It must first be rejected before litigation can be filed with the court.
According to the document, Pearl Fernandez showed up at her parents' house when Gabriel was about a month old, and told them she "did not want Gabriel and had no love for the child." Her parents, Robert and Sandra Fernandez, raised Gabriel until Pearl returned in October 2012 to reclaim custody.
"Despite the objections of Robert Fernandez and Sandra Fernandez, and the warnings that Pearl Fernandez had previously abused her other children, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department removed Gabriel Fernandez from his grandparents' home," according to the claim.
From there, the Fernandez family says, the warning signs continued: Family members, school personnel, and neighbors filed as many as 64 complaints with DCFS. However, the family believes only five to eight investigations were ever initiated, and none of them completed.
Despite all of the reports, government workers "never conducted any private individual interviews with Gabriel Fernandez nor did they fully examine Gabriel Fernandez to assure there were no signs of abuse," according to the the claim.
In one instance, the Fernandez family said they informed a man investigating them for welfare fraud about the alleged child abuse by the mother.
Instead of investigating or reporting the abuse, the family says that investigator Javier Cruz called Pearl Fernandez the next day and asked her for a date, according to the document. Javier Cruz is named in the claim, along with his employer, the Department of Public Social Services.
Gabriel was removed from life support and died on May 24, two days after he was admitted to the hospital. Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, have both been charged with murder. They are next due in court October 7.