Young Boy Tortured and Murdered by Mom and Boyfriend
The case of Gabriel Fernandez is one of the most gut-wrenching stories you will hear about child abuse. Between the torture his mother and her boyfriend subjected him to, to his eventual murder at the hands of his guardians, Gabriel’s case will make you question the morality of horrible people and the effectiveness of our child protective services system.
Signs of Abuse
Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old boy, shuffled between his relatives’ homes throughout his early childhood. He was happiest living with his grandparents and uncle, before moving in with his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. Pearl’s family was concerned about Gabriel’s upbringing under the two and noticed that they were neglectful towards Gabriel’s siblings.
Between 2003 to 2012, over 60 complaints were made and 8 investigations were conducted against Pearl by Los Angeles County Child Protective Services. In 2003, Pearl underwent an investigation for neglect claiming that her eldest son was injured in a car accident after not wearing a seatbelt. She was also accused of beating him. She was not subjected to any punishment, and the case was dismissed.
In 2007, Pearl was convicted of reckless use of a weapon and was sentenced to two weeks in jail. It was also found that another complaint was filed that stated she refused to feed her daughter and threatened to beat her if she cried.
Gabriel switched schools in 2012 after moving in with his mother. Teacher Jennifer Garcia noticed bruises and large marks on his body, including his face. She asked Gabriel if he was being beat at home. He responded that he had been hit with a belt and shot by a BB gun, and she reported his case to the Los Angeles Child Abuse Hotline. Gabriel was interviewed by several social workers, but he did not admit these accusations to them because his mother was present during the questioning.
He retracted his claims once again on March 26 when a complaint from Gabriel’s therapist read that he had been forced to perform oral sex on a relative. Again, his mother was present at the interviews. When Gabriel’s school called the sheriff and asked for a formal investigation on the Fernandezes, he claimed he was given the wrong address, and when he called Pearl the phone, she told him he had moved to Texas with his grandmother.
Shocking the Nation
On May 22, 2013, Pearl called 911 after Gabriel had suffered from extensive injuries and had stopped breathing. His ribs were broken, skull cracked, and had multiple BB shotgun wounds all over his body. Paramedics declared him brain dead and he died two days later.
Pictured Above: Pearl Fernandez and boyfriend Isaurro Aguirre.
Both Fernandez and Aguirre were arrested and charged with first-degree murder with an additional count of torture. It was revealed that his mother and her boyfriend beat Gabriel to the point that he was unconscious, and told a fake story as to how he acquired his injuries to the paramedics.
During their trial, Gabriel’s siblings testified that their parents forced them to eat cat litter, slept in cabinets with duct tape covering their mouths, and tied their hands behind their backs with rope.
It was also discovered that Fernandez and Aguirre repeatedly teased Gabriel and called him ‘gay.’ When investigators reviewed Pearl’s 911 call, she told authorities that her son was gay, an odd detail to add while he lay brain-dead. They found all of his clothes disposed of, except for two dresses that he was forced to wear. While all of the Fernandez siblings were subjected to horrible abuse, Gabriel was the prime target. Gabriel’s brother testified that Aguirre would put him in a chokehold, and forced his siblings to beat him while he held him down.
Pearl was the instigator of all the abuse. She was the victim of a gang rape and raped by a relative at an early age. She also started using drugs fairly young, and was later diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, and had brain abnormalities. Family members later testified that she did not want Gabriel, and left him at the hospital after his birth. She later took him in for welfare benefits.
Pearl pled guilty to first-degree murder, while Aguirre did not. They were both found guilty on the charges, to which Pearl was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Aguirre sentenced to death In June 2018.
A week before his death, Gabriel wrote a suicide note, reading that he just wanted his mother to love him and to be a good boy. He wrote her letters about how much he loved her.
Why Wasn’t He Saved Sooner?
Four social workers were charged for one felony count of child abuse and one felony count for falsifying public records. Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt had concrete evidence of Gabriel’s abuse and failed to help him get out of his mother’s house. Prosecutors say they each had an integral part in Gabriel’s case and knew that Gabriel’s death was foreseeable.
In January of 2020, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a request to dismiss the charges against the four. They concluded that there was no probable cause to hold the social workers accountable for these charges.
Gabriel’s case is an unprecedented, unbelievably cruel instance of child abuse and neglect. While his mother and her boyfriend were a lost cause, the social workers were given so many chances to get Gabriel out. Even though the evidence was right under their noses, they chose to ignore it and waited until it was too late. The emotional docuseries The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, which depicts the events leading up to and after Gabriel’s death is available on Netflix today.