As criminologists, medical staff, his siblings and now a security guard who reported the child for possible abuse have told jurors that 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez’s home life was one long nightmare, but authorities never managed to take action. The boy was allegedly abused because his guardians thought he was gay.
The boy’s mother and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are both charged with murder in the tragic case made worse by callous social workers and indifferent police. Aguirre is currently on trial. The child’s mother will be tried separately. Four social workers have been charged with child abuse and other crimes for neglecting the boy’s welfare.
Arturo Martinez, a security guard at an office for the California Department of Public Social Services, testified yesterday that he had personally called 911 to report the obvious signs of abuse on the child’s body, but was told the case wasn’t an emergency. Fernandez’s mother was applying for public assistance at the time.
“I saw him sad, full of bruises, with cigarette burns on the back of his head, neck, lacerations,” Martinez told the jury. He described seeing approximately 20 burn marks behind the child’s ears and on the back of his neck. He also reported seeing bruises on the side of Fernandez’s head, under his eyes, on the back of his head, around his nose, and on his wrist.
“His head did not look normal,” Martinez said. “He had a lump behind the ears and in different parts of his head.”
Martinez also reported seeing marks around the boy’s wrists and that the child kept rubbing them. Earlier testimony has shown that his guardians kept Fernandez bound and gagged in a locked cupboard for hours at a time without food, water, or the ability to go to the bathroom.
“Looked as he had been tied,”Martinez testified.
Prosecutors played jurors the 911 call Martinez placed while Fernandez and his family were in the building and was told it was not an emergency situation and that he should call a non-emergency number instead.
They also played a recording of the call he immediately placed to the local sheriff’s station. Martinez reported the injuries on the child, gave authorities his guardians’ names and address, and his own contact information for follow up. It was not apparent that any authorities followed up on Martinez’s call.
Martinez testified that when the boy’s mother noticed him observing the child, she sent him to sit down and quickly hurried him out of the building before he could stop her.
A forensic radiologist who examined Fernandez’s body testified to the extent of the boy’s injuries, saying there were multiple bone fractures to the boy’s ribs and arms.
A forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy said the boy weighed 59 pounds at the time of his death, a sure sign of malnutrition. He said there were at least ten spots where the boy’s hair had been pulled out of his head in clumps. Four of the child’s teeth had been knocked out recently and the top layer of soft tissue in his mouth had been stripped to the bone and was infected from being punched in the face so often.
His siblings told jurors last week that Fernandez was forced to eat cat feces, spoiled food, and when he got sick from eating it, his own vomit. He was also shot with a BB gun repeatedly, pepper sprayed, and beaten daily. Eight BB pellets were found lodged in the child’s lungs and groin area.
Aguirre would beat Fernandez with wire hangers and a belt buckle and pin him against the wall by the neck until he passed out according to his older brother.
Criminalist Tiffany Shew showed jurors photos of the apartment where hundreds of blood stains and indentations on the walls were found. The dents were from Aguirre slamming Fernandez’s head into the wall. There were so many marks on the wall, Shew testified that she ran out of evidence stickers to mark them all.
Another criminologist, Stephan Schliebe, confirmed that Fernandez was fed cat feces, saying the contents of the boy’s stomach resembled a kitty litter sample with feces and litter mixed together.