Los Angeles

Trial Begins in Torture Death of Gabriel Fernandez

The boy's death triggered investigations into LA county's child welfare system and calls for reform.

A jury is set Monday to begin hearing the case against a Palmdale man who is charged, along with his girlfriend, with capital murder in the beating death of the woman's 8-year-old son.

The seven-woman, five-man panel is due in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for opening statements by attorneys in the trial of Isauro Aguirre, 37, who is charged in the May 22, 2013, death of Gabriel Fernandez. The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and co-defendant Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, who will be tried separately. As jury selection began late last month, Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said the boy suffered "extensive internal and external injuries."

"It's going to be an interesting case, believe me," the judge said then, noting that the trial was expected to last about six to eight weeks.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent May 22, 2013, to a home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy was not breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, but not taken off life support until two days later.

The prosecution has alleged that the child suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and was burned over his body.

In court papers filed last year, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami wrote that a first-grade teacher made a report to authorities about Fernandez allegedly hitting her son with the metal part of a belt, causing injury.

"This was essentially the beginning of the eight months of torture and abuse of Gabriel Fernandez by Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre in Palmdale," the prosecutor wrote, adding that the boy was "withheld from school by the defendants for the last three weeks before he was murdered."

Aguirre and Fernandez were indicted in July 2014 on a murder charge, along with the special circumstance allegation.

The boy's death triggered investigations into the county's child welfare system and resulted in criminal charges of child abuse and falsifying public records being filed against two former county social workers and two of their supervisors, who are due back in court Friday for a pretrial hearing.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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