Gabriel Fernandez led a short and agonizing life. The child was brutally tortured for months by his mother and her boyfriend because they thought he was gay.
Fernandez’s mother and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were charged with murder in the case and after a weeks-long trial full of shocking and heartbreaking testimony, Aguirre has been convicted of first degree murder.
Four social workers who “investigated” allegations of abuse but didn’t remove him from the home have been charged with child abuse and other charges.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami broke down in tears at a press conference following the verdict. He told reporters he was a father and also the victim of child abuse when he was younger.
“I’m involved in child abuse cases because I’m passionate about those cases, because I believe children need somebody to fight for them,” the prosecutor said according to the LA Times. “And I think that being a victim of child abuse, you feel powerless and no one’s there to help you. People need to fight for children and others who can’t fight for themselves.”
Fernandez’s siblings told jurors that Fernandez was forced to eat cat feces, spoiled food, and when he got sick from eating it, his own vomit. He was also bound and forced into a box for extended periods, pepper sprayed, and beaten daily.
Aguirre would shoot Fernandez with a BB gun in the face and groin, beat him with wire hangers and a belt buckle, pin him against the wall by the neck until he passed out according to Fernandez’s 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.
Forensic testing found Fernandez’s blood on numerous items in the home, including a baseball bat, a wooden club, and computer cords. His DNA was also found inside a cupboard where the two adults kept him, bound and gagged for hours without food, water, or the ability to go to the bathroom.
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 to fill a large part of his abdomen.
Registered Nurse Alison Segal testified to the extent of Fernandez’s injuries when he was brought to the hospital after being beaten so badly he lost consciousness and didn’t wake up. She told the jury that she did not have time to do a “comprehensive assessment” because his injuries were so severe he was immediately rushed to a children’s hospital where he died.
Segal graphically described the boy’s injuries she observed, saying his genitals had been damaged, his skull was cracked, three ribs were broken, his front teeth were missing, patches of skin that were missing, burned, or bruised, and he had BB pellets embedded in his lungs and groin.
Prosecutors will start the penalty phase of Aguirre’s trial on November 27. He faces the death penalty.