Social workers visited home before hatchet killing

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Associated Press

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 6:04 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 14 at 6:33 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Child welfare workers investigated claims of violence and drug use at a Sacramento home three weeks before authorities said a 9-year-old boy was killed by his father with a hatchet.

While representatives from the Sacramento County Child Protective Services office confirmed drug use was going on at Matthew Hernandez' home during a Feb. 4 visit, they concluded the behavior did not warrant removing the boy and his older brother, the Sacramento Bee reported Thursday.

Despite the claim, the agency said, "The children do not appear to be in any imminent danger at this time."

Matthew's father, Phillip Hernandez, has been charged with murder in the boy's Feb. 26 slaying. The 36-year-old did not enter plea during his appearance in a Sacramento County courtroom Thursday.

He was jailed without bail and is due back in court April 12.

County records did not make clear the report whether the caregiver mentioned was Hernandez. County Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Laura McCasland declined comment Thursday to The Associated Press on whether Hernandez is the caregiver cited in the report.

The report also does not mention who made the initial claims, but the boys' mother, Jessica Hernandez, told KCRA-TV that she called CPS on Feb. 4 and 5 to complain about the welfare of her children and to report that Philip Hernandez uses drugs, is violent and there were rifles inside his home.

Phillip Hernandez was convicted of domestic violence and served prison time from July 2006 to October 2007, according to state records.

The slain boy's 12-year-old brother is now in the custody of his mother, who divorced Phillip Hernandez and lives in Las Vegas, the newspaper said.

Authorities say officers found Matthew Hernandez dead from blunt-force trauma after his father allegedly had gone into the backyard to get a hatchet and, for unknown reasons, broke through a sliding glass door to get back inside.

The boy's great-grandmother who lives in the home heard the glass shatter, ran into the living room and found Hernandez standing over his sleeping son with the ax, authorities said.

The victim's brother, who was at home during the attack, was unharmed.

The county said in a written statement Thursday that it is working with law enforcement in the criminal investigation.

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