Case Worker Fired Over Child Abuse Torture Death Gets Job Back
The child services supervisor who was fired after the torture and death of an 8-year-old boy will be allowed to return to work.On Tuesday, a judge ordered the reinstatement of Gregory Merritt, who was fired over his handling the Gabriel Fernandez case. Merritt was fired along with three other Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services employees after it was determined that they missed multiple warning signs, including a suicidal note. Merritt successfully appealed his firing, but was prevented from returning to work by county lawyers. The judge's ruling will allow Merritt to work from home, according to the L.A. Times, until a hearing in May that will decide whether he ultimately keeps his job.
"The lack of oversight by the supervising social worker cost a young boy's innocent life,'' said County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said in response to the ruling. "The action by the judge to further block Merritt's termination indicates complete unawareness for the gravity of these mistakes and it further compromises the county's efforts to protect our most vulnerable children."
On May 22, 2013, paramedics arrived at the home where Gabriel Fernandez lived and found him not breathing. He was later discovered to have three broken ribs, a cracked skull, two missing teeth, BB pellets lodged in his lung and groin and numerous bruises and burns. Fernandez died two days later. Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, are awaiting trial on charges of capital murder and torture.
DCFS workers came under fire when it was revealed that Pearl Fernandez regained custody of Gabriel and his siblings despite multiple reports of abuse and her history of drug abuse and mental illness. Merritt and another social worker closed the case file on Gabriel Fernandez shortly before his death.