Los Angeles County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a couple charged with beating to death the woman’s 8-year-old son.
Gabriel Fernandez died in May 2013. Court documents reveal that Gabriel was doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit and locked in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams.
Testimony also indicated that Gabriel was beaten with bats, a club (which knocked out his teeth), was shot with a BB gun, and was whipped with the metal part of a belt over eight months.
His siblings said Gabriel was often called gay, punished because he played with dolls and was forced to wear girls’ clothes to school.
The Palmdale, Calif., boy died in May 2013, days after he was hospitalized with injuries including a cracked skull, broken ribs and burns.
Documents revealed that Gabriel remained with his mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez and Aguirre, despite several investigations by social workers.
The incident prompted calls for sweeping reforms to the troubled Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove the boy.
“For eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war,” said Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami.
Four social workers would be discharged in connection with the Fernandez case and a blue-ribbon panel released a scathing report, recommending changes to the way the county handles abused children.
Fernandez and her ex-boyfriend, 35-year-old Isauro Aguirre, were both charged with capital murder in Gabriel’s death.
Gabriel’s maternal grandfather has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the Department of Children and Family Services.