A Palmdale mother and her boyfriend pleaded not guilty to one count each of capital murder in connection with the fatal 2013 beating of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.
Fernandez’s death ignited a firestorm of controversy after it was discovered Los Angeles County’s Department of Child and Family Services had recently returned him to her care despite more than 60 allegations of child abuse.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 30, and Isauro Aguirre, 34, were each indicted with one count of capital murder with the special circumstance of torture. They have been in custody since their arrest in May 2013.
On May 22, 2013, Gabriel was found barely breathing in his mother’s Palmdale apartment. He showed signs of having been beaten, restrained, shot with a BB gun in the groin and other torture.
Prosecutors said they took the case to the grand jury in July to avoid continued delays that have plagued the case.
They are due back in court August 14.
Prosecutors said they will decide at a later date whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In the year since his death, Fernandez's case has become a rallying cry for reform in the system, with protests and demands for change at public meetings across the state.
The outcry sparked the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to oversee changes to DCFS.