UPDATED on October 30:
A man accused in the fatal torturing of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, who they thought was gay, will reportedly not take a plea deal offered to him and the boy's mother, KNBC News reports.
Despite earlier reports by KNBC that Isauro Aguirre and his ex-girlfriend Pearl Fernandez would accept the plea deal to avoid the death penalty, if found guilty, KNBC now reports that at least Aguirre may not take the deal. A public information officer from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, which has not confirmed the reports, told The Advocate that Fernandez and Aguirre were scheduled to appear in court October 30, but their "court appearance was continued to December 3."
Each must decide whether to take the deal by the December 3 court hearing to avoid a trial on murder charges in the case of Fernandez's son Gabriel. If Aguirre and Fernandez take the deal, they would face life in prison without the possibility of parole or appeals.
Aguirre and Fernandez were accused of torturing the child, Gabriel Fernandez, for several months, calling him gay, beating him when he played with dolls, striking him with belts and baseball bats, forcing him to eat cat feces and his own vomit, dousing him in pepper spray, and locking him inside a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth and refusing to let him out to use the bathroom, as previously reported.
His mother called 911 on May 22, 2013 to report that Gabriel was not breathing. When paramedics arrived at the couple's apartment in Palmdale, just north of Los Angeles, they found the child in his bedroom naked, with a cracked skull, several broken ribs, and BB pellets in his lung and groin. He died two days later. Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez were charged with capital murder shortly thereafter.
While social workers had responded to multiple reports of abuse from Gabriel Fernandez's teachers and grandfather, child welfare workers determined that Gabriel was not at risk. Social workers had even found a suicide note the boy had written, but concluded that he did not have an immediate or specific plan to take his own life.
The case was the impetus for several protests regarding a reform of Southern California's child protective services. Four social workers were discharged due to the Fernandez case. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services released a lengthy, scathing report on the case, with vast reforms suggested for the department. Because Gabriel Fernandez was under the supervision of DCFS, his maternal grandfather has filed a civil lawsuit against the agency and Los Angeles County for wrongful death. The boy had lived with his grandfather for most of his life before being returned to live with his mother.
CORRECTION: The headline on an earlier story did not attribute the information to unconfirmed reports that claimed the couple had both accepted a plea deal. The Advocate regrets the error.