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 the special circumstance allegation of torture in the May 2013 death of her son, Gabriel Fernandez.
The boy’s death death triggered investigations into the county’s child welfare system and resulted in criminal charges against two former county social workers and two of their supervisors.
The prosecution announced last summer that the death penalty would be sought against Fernandez and Aguirre, who were initially charged in May 2013.
Prosecutors took the case to the grand jury to avoid continued delays in the case, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami said in 2014.
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,” Lomeli 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.
Los Angeles County Fire Department 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 Los Angeles County 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.
The four 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 Fernandez’s death had expired.
Rodriguez, Clement, Bom and Merritt 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.
Late last month, the Los Angles County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a settlement with the boy’s family, who had filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Details of the settlement are expected to be finalized in October.