By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) - Four Los Angeles County social workers have been charged with child abuse for failing to protect an 8-year-old boy who was found beaten to death in his home, the district attorney's office said on Thursday.
The four employees with the Department of Children and Family Services are accused of minimizing the abuse suffered by Gabriel Fernandez despite routine visits to his Los Angeles-area home and warnings from his teacher that he was in danger, prosecutors said in a statement.
"These social workers allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
Fernandez's mother and boyfriend have been charged in the child's 2013 beating death, with prosecutors contending the boy endured ongoing physical and mental abuse at their hands. He died of multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs, and had burns over his body, authorities said.
Two social workers, Stefanie Rodriguez, 30, and Patricia Clement, 65, are accused of visiting the boy's home over a seven-month period and falsifying reports that should have documented sign's of his escalating physical abuse, prosecutors said.
Supervisors Kevin Bom, 36, and Gregory Merritt, 60, "should have known that they were approving false reports that conflicted with the evidence of Gabriel's deteriorating physical well-being," the district attorney's office said in a statement.
The four were charged with one count each of child abuse and falsifying public records, according to the office.
The social workers were arraigned on Thursday but did not enter pleas, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Outside the court, Merritt and Clement declined to respond when reporters asked how they intended to answer to the charges, the Times said.
The Department of Children and Family Services, department Director Philip Browning told the Times in a statement that following Gabriel Fernandez's death, he directed all four to be discharged from the agency because they had "failed to perform their jobs."
Merritt appealed his discharge and was reinstated.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)