GABRIEL Fernandez would have been 16-years-old on February 20, 2021.
Gabriel died on May 24, 2013, after having suffered years of abuse at the hands of his mother Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre.
Who was Gabriel Fernandez?
Gabriel Fernandez was reported as being a sweet child who liked to help others.
He lived with different relatives before moving in with his mother and her boyfriend, Pearl Sinithia Fernandez and Isauro Agirre.
He had previously lived with an uncle and his grandparents.
Footage of Gabriel, while he lived with his uncle, depicts a happy and healthy child.
It has been reported that his mother only took him in 2012 in order to gain welfare benefits.
For eight months, Gabriel was subjected to physical and mental abuse.
He was often called "gay"and punished for exhibiting perceived female traits like playing with dolls.
According to testimonies by his siblings, in addition to being beaten on several occasions, he was often forced to eat cat litter, rotten spinach, and his own vomit.
He was also tied up and gagged inside a "torture box".
At school, his teachers noticed all was not well with Gabriel who would ask questions such as if it was "normal to be hit" with belt buckles.
After school authorities reporting the child's condition to the LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), social worker, Stefanie Rodriguez was assigned to his case.
The social worker, according to the documentary failed to remove Gabriel from the unsafe environment.
As time went by, school authorities began to noticed fresh wounds including bruises on his body, injuries to his lips as a result of punches, bruises on his scalp, and patches of hair missing.
Bruises on Gabriel's face were determined to be as a result of his mother shooting him with a BB gun.
On May 22, 2013, a call was made to 911 by Gabriel's mother to report that her son was not breathing.
Paramedics, on arrival found Gabriel with broken ribs, BB pellets stuck in his body, and a cracked skull.
It was increasingly clear to emergency responders that there had been severe abuse.
Gabriel was declared brain-dead upon being taken to the hospital.
He died on May 24, 2013.
Prosecutors brought first-degree murder charges with a special circumstance of intentional murder by torture to Gabriel's mother Pearl and her boyfriend, Agguirre.
Aguirre was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2018. He is on death row currently at the San Quentin State Prison.
His mother, Pearl, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as part of a deal which would spare her the death penalty.
She is currently serving a life sentence at Chowchilla State Women's Prison.
In the documentary, presiding Superior Court Judge George G Lomedi is seen telling the couple "I hope you think about the pain you caused this child and it tortures you".
Why wasn't Gabriel's death prevented?
Although social worker Stefanie Rodriguez and other representatives of child protection agencies visited Gabriel's home on a number of occasions, they claimed to have never found strong enough signs of abuse in order to remove Gabriel from the house.
Later investigations revealed Rodriguez had never received information which showed Pearl Rodriguez had abused and neglected her other children.
Criminal charges alleging the social workers had minimised evidence of Gabriel's abuse were levelled against Rodriguez and three other social workers.
They were also accused of falsifying reports that safety programs for Gabriel were working, when in contrary, his case had become worse.
Rodriguez, in a statement, said at the time she was responsible for Gabriel's case, she was working on other children whose conditions she felt were equally or more dangerous.
The social workers were cleared of the charges in January 2020.
Watch the trailer of The Trails of Gabriel Fernandez, which premiered on Netflix on February 27, 2020.
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