A prison fence is seen at a correctional facility.
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California couple charged with abuse appears in court


This story has been revised and a correction has been appended.

A Los Angeles couple charged with beating and killing an eight-year-old child appeared before a judge Thursday in a case that has garnered significant attention in California. A pretrial hearing will take place on Dec. 3, according to Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.

NBC News Los Angeles reported last week, citing two sources working closely on the case, that the couple – Pearl Hernandez and her then-boyfriend Isauro Aguirre – was expected to plead guilty to murder and torture charges in her son’s death, sparing them the death penalty. Santiago told msnbc that the couple has not entered a plea.

According to The Los Angeles Times, trial records indicated that the couple reportedly called the boy “gay,” and abused him when he played with dolls. Among the details reported by the Times, before physically beating the boy, the couple doused him with pepper spray, forced him to eat his own vomit, and locked him in a cabinet with a sock stuffed into his mouth. The boy was found dead on May 24, 2013.

The case influenced a number of protests throughout the county last summer. Four social workers were fired later for failing to investigate abuse reports in the months leading up to the child’s death.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that the couple had pleaded guilty to torture and first-degree murder charges. The couple has not entered a plea nor waived any related rights.