Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, the woman who helped her boyfriend torture her 8-year-old son to death because they thought he was gay, has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, has already been convicted.
Gabriel Fernandez’s murder shocked the nation when the horrific details of his short life were revealed. The boy was found in May 2013, with a cracked skull, broken ribs, and burns, and died days after being hospitalized.
The jury in Aguirre’s case recommended the death penalty. His formal sentencing will happen in March.
Pleading guilty will allow Fernandez to avoid a jury trial where prosecutors were expected to seek the death penalty. Her defense lawyers argued that she should escape capital punishment based on her low IQ. The judge is expected to sentence her to life in prison.
“You will never be paroled. You will never be released from prison,” Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami told her according to the Los Angeles Times. “Do you understand and agree to this?”
“Yes,” Fernandez replied quietly.
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.
During Aguirre’s trial, Fernandez’s siblings told jurors that the child 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.