John Cadiz Klemack
New stunning details just released after the death of an eight year old boy in Palmdale. Since that death, NBC 4 began digging into the records of the Department of Children and Family Services. DCFS documents revealed that over the past 17 months, there have been 145 child deaths in LA County with 63 a direct result of abuse or neglect. John Cadiz Klemack reports from Koreatown for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2013.
Records obtained by NBC4 show 63 children died in Los Angeles County as a result of abuse and neglect since January 2012, including some with a lengthy history of allegations leading up to the death.
The documents provide details about the deaths and the history of involvement - if there was any - by the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services.
Some cases flew under the DCFS's radar, as no one reported any abuse or neglect until after the child's death. But in other cases, the DCFS had been chronicled neglect, abuse and sexual abuse allegations against the children's parents for years before the case culminated in a death.
"Yes, we've had contact and there have been assessments done," said Armand Montiel, spokesman for the DCFS. "But that assessment may have been done three weeks ago, six months ago or years ago."
The public agency released hundreds of pages of those documents Wednesday, which NBC4 is examining.
The DCFS has been under scrutiny - both internal and by the public - since the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in May. The agency has fired four of its social workers because of apparent mishandling of Gabriel's case.
Gabriel died of apparent torture and severe abuse after being found nearly dead in his mother's apartment in Palmdale. His mother and her live-in boyfriend were charged in his death.
Gabriel had been removed from the home and placed with another family member. A court eventually awarded custody to his mother in late 2012, just months before his death.
Teachers and relatives have since come forward saying they tried to warn the DCFS for months or years about signs Gabriel was being abused, but nothing happened until after the boy died.
Gabriel had suffered a fractured skull, three broken ribs and burns to his skin. Two of his teeth were knocked out, and paramedics found BB pellets embedded in his lung.
Gabriel's maternal grandparents are suing the DCFS and other county agencies over their handling of Gabriel's case.
"For the most part, our social workers are very confident in what they do and if they feel the child is not safe in the home, then they won't remain in the home," Montiel said.