Four California Social Workers Charged with Child Abuse, Document Falsification After 8-Year-Old Is Allegedly Beaten to Death by Mother and Boyfriend

Gabriel Fernandez: California Social Workers Charged Over 8-Year-Old Boy's Death
Gabriel Fernandez
Source: Gabriel's Justice/Facebook

04/08/2016 AT 02:40 PM EDT

Four Los Angeles County social workers have been charged with child abuse and falsifying records stemming from an 8-year-old boy's death three years ago, allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

PEOPLE confirms an arrest warrant was issued March 28 for Stefanie Rodriguez, 30, Patricia Clement, 65, Kevin Bom, 36, and Gregory Merritt, 60. All four were fired last year following an internal investigation into the death of Gabriel Fernandez; after challenging his dismissal, Merritt was reinstated to his position, records indicate.

PEOPLE obtained a copy of the arrest warrant, which claims Rodriguez, Clement, Bom and Merritt "had a legal duty" to protect Gabriel from the time his case was initially opened back on Halloween of 2012 until his death on May 24, 2013.

Gabriel died from a skull fracture, shattered ribs and severe burns, the warrant alleges. The boy's mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, have both pleaded not guilty to his murder.

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Officials tell PEOPLE Gabriel's mom and her boyfriend are both in jail awaiting their upcoming trials. Both face the death penalty if convicted.

Rodriguez, Clement, Bom and Merritt could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if found guilty of their criminal charges. All four are being held on $155,000 and will be arraigned on April 21, at which time it is anticipated they'll enter pleas to the two counts against them.

Three of the four suspects don't have attorneys. A call to Rodriguez's lawyer, Lance Filer, was not returned as of press time.

"Social workers play a vital role in society. We entrust them to protect our children from harm," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Thursday in a statement. "When their negligence is so great as to become criminal, young lives are put at risk."

Prosecutors allege Rodriguez and Clement falsified official reports that should have documented the alleged abuse Gabriel endured. They say Bom and Merritt, who supervised Rodriguez and Clement, "knew or should have known" those reports had been falsified.

It is somewhat atypical for a social worker to face criminal charges related to the death of a child who they'd been charged with supervising, District Attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison tells PEOPLE.

Robison notes this is the first case of its kind to be prosecuted in Los Angeles County.
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