8-year-old forced to eat feces, beaten to death by mother for 'being gay' now subject of Netflix docuseries
'The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez', the docuseries, will show the abuses meted out by the mother and her boyfriend
The tragic death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in 2013 shook America and the world to its core. Although not the first of its kind, the murder was one of the most painfully gut-wrenching child abuse cases that the country had ever witnessed. It urged authorities to scrutinize and re-examine the system that neglected to ensure his protection and could have prevented his situation.
Netflix is delving into the harrowing story of Gabriel Fernandez through a 6-part documentary series directed by Writer's Guild awardee Brian Knappenberger ('The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'). His death was a tragedy that could have been easily prevented, Netflix aims to convey. Here is all you need to know about Gabriel Fernandez — his short life and his death.
Several Years of Abuse
Born in 2005, Gabriel was sent to live with his maternal grandmother shortly after his birth. His mother Pearl Fernandez had gained custody of his Gabriel's two siblings after his father was jailed for robbery and drug possession. Allegations of neglect on her part arose when it was brought to the attention of county social workers that Pearl had been beating her other son and daughter. But the social workers didn't find anything out of the ordinary and she got to keep the children.
In 2012, Pearl gained custody of Gabriel after claiming she was fearful of her relatives' treatment of him. After Gabriel moved in with his mother and her boyfriend, his school teacher alerted social workers over several months of Gabriel appearing to school covered in bruises, scratches, a busted lip and even a swollen face. Gabriel first attributed these to being actions carried out by his mother but retracted his claims to the social workers as they made sure to interview him only in his mother's presence.
Gabriel endured years of torture having been starved, beaten black and blue, forced to eat rotten spinach, cat feces, and even his own vomit.
Over the course of nine years, there were approximately 60 complaints filed against Pearl Fernandez, and she was investigated eight times, only for the claims to be found baseless.
Isauro Aguirre, his mother's boyfriend later said that he believed the boy was gay, and this was the reason for his torture.
Authorities were notified by Gabriel's mother on May 22, 2013, saying that the boy had stopped breathing after hitting his head at home. Upon arriving at the scene, the paramedics found Gabriel's beaten-up body on the floor, unresponsive, and sporting signs of severe physical torture. He had a broken skull, three cracked ribs, several BB pellets lodged in his lungs and groin and visible bruises.
He was immediately rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced brain-dead and taken off life-support, two days later.
James Kemp Ribe, LA County coroner, mentioned that the injuries were so extensive that it took him close to two days to perform the post-mortem. Gabriel Fernandez's death was a result of blunt force trauma, compounded by neglect.
Following Gabriel's death, Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre pleaded guilty and were convicted of first-degree murder. Pearl was charged with a life sentence with no possibility for parole and Aguirre was given the death penalty.
Charges were also pressed against four social workers for their incapability to protect Gabriel.
Superior court judge George G Lomeli, during the trial, described the act has 'horrendous', 'inhumane' and 'nothing short of evil'. He even commented that the act was so heinous that we can't refer to it as animalistic, because even animals care for their children to the point that they'd willingly sacrifice themselves for their children.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
Knappenberger's documentary series will shine light on Gabriel Fernandez's story and aim to seek justice and come to terms with what happened to Gabriel. It focuses on the aftermath of death and follows through the court trial. All in all, the documentary is an urgent plea towards amending the system that failed protect an innocent life.
'The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez' premieres 26 February, 2020, on Netflix.