LOS ANGELES – A Jan. 17 trial date has been set for a Palmdale couple charged with capital murder in the beating death of the woman’s 8-year-old son.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 32, and Isauro Aguirre, 36, were indicted in July 2014 on a murder charge, with a special circumstance allegation of torture, in connection with the May 2013 death of Fernandez’s son, Gabriel.
The boy’s death triggered investigations into Los Angeles County’s child welfare system and resulted in the filing of criminal charges against two former social workers and two of their supervisors.
The prosecution announced last summer that it would seek the death penalty against Fernandez and Aguirre, who were initially charged in May 2013. Prosecutors have said they took the case to the grand jury to avoid continued delays in the case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli noted that Fernandez’s attorneys had asked that the trial be postponed to April, but said he was “not inclined” to grant a continuance.
“Three years is ample time to work on this,” he told the attorneys, noting that they will still have several more months to prepare for the trial.
Fernandez and Aguirre, who are jailed without bail, are accused of inflicting multiple injuries on the boy. The prosecution alleges that the child suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and was burned.
At a July 28 court hearing, the judge said he would privately review information from an Internal Affairs investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in connection with the case to determine if it should be turned over to the prosecutor and defense attorneys, who have requested the file.
In a court filing, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami wrote that the sheriff’s Internal Affairs bureau “conducted a lengthy two-volume parallel investigation right after Gabriel Fernandez’ death in May 2013, interviewing numerous civilian and deputy personnel,” and has “continuously and repeatedly refused to cooperate in any way with the People in this matter.”
“My position is it should all be turned over,” the prosecutor told the judge, who set a Sept. 29 hearing on documents involving a separate internal affairs investigation by the county Department of Children and Family Services.
County fire personnel were sent May 22, 2013, to a home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy was not breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, but not taken off life support until two days later.
Two former social workers — Stefanie Rodriguez, 31, and Patricia Clement, 66, and their supervisors, Kevin Bom, 37, and Gregory Merritt, 60 — were charged earlier this year with one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records.
They pleaded not guilty last week after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge rejected a bid to dismiss the case based on the defense’s claim that the statute of limitations for the charges arising from the boy’s death had expired.
The four are due back in court Aug. 25, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.
Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors voted to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the boy’s family. Details of the settlement are expected to be finalized in October.
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