A Palmdale man was sentenced to death today, while his girlfriend was sentenced to life in prison without parole, for the torture and killing of the woman’s 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez, in 2013.
Isauro Aguirre was convicted last year of first-degree murder, while his girlfriend, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, pleaded guilty to the same crime earlier this year.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel discovered Gabriel in Palmdale on May 22, 2013, after receiving a call that he was not breathing. He was declared brain-dead that same day, and taken off life support two days later.
According to prosecutors, Gabriel’s death followed months of torture at the hands of his mother and Aguirre. Prosecutors told jurors that Gabriel was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, forced to eat cat feces and sleep inside a small cabinet while gagged and bound, all because Aguirre believed the boy was gay.
Paramedics later testified that Gabriel was found with a fractured skull, broken ribs, burned skin, missing teeth and BB pellets embedded in his groin.
Social Work Overhaul
The case drew widespread outcry after Gabriel’s death, because of how the boy’s ordeal was missed by social workers, who were notified multiple times about something amiss at the Fernandez residence. Los Angeles County social workers investigated reports of abuse on six different occasions, while sheriff’s deputies also visited the home before Gabriel’s death.
On every occasion, Gabriel was allowed to remain home with his mother and Aguirre.
Four social workers are awaiting trial on one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records, while the sheriff’s deputies were reportedly disciplined, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Reforms were also put in place, with Los Angeles County establishing the Office of Child Protection in Feb. 2015 and appointing former Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash to lead it.
No Death Penalty For Mother
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez’ guilty plea will spare family members an additional trial, which could have ended in a death sentence. Defense attorneys for Fernandez said that the death penalty would not be appropriate, however, due to an intellectual disability.
Forensic neuropsychologist Deborah S. Miora evaluated Fernandez before the trial, and later said that she was “virtually unable to use thought to guide her behavior and temper her emotional reactions.”
Family members expressed their relief at being spared an additional trial during the sentencing.
“We don’t have to go through it a second time,” relative Emily Carranza told City News Service. “I don’t think anybody should have to go through that again, to see those pictures, to see what they did to him.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli called the couple’s actions “nothing short of evil,” and told the defendants that he hoped their guilt would torture them, before handing down the sentences.
City News Service contributed to this story.