Boy Was Pepper-Sprayed, Forced To Eat Feces At Home Before He Died, Court Records Show
Editors note: Some of the details in this report are graphic and disturbing.
An 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was allegedly beaten and killed by his mother and her boyfriend also suffered from horrific abuse like being forced to eat his own vomit and getting stuffed inside a small cabinet on a daily basis, according to court testimonials released yesterday.
Gabriel Fernandez died in May 2013 after he was found in his apartment brutally beaten with a fractured skull, broken ribs, and BB gun pellets lodged in his lung and groin.
"It was just like every inch of this child had been abused," James Cermak, a Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic, said in court.
Court testimonies revealed that the boy's home was a prison for him where he was tortured by his mother Pearl Fernandez, 30, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 34, on a daily basis, NBC Los Angeles reported.
His older brother, Ezequiel, testified in court that Gabriel was gagged with a sock and bandana every day and forced to stay inside a small cabinet that was locked from the outside. He wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom, but if he had to, he had to do it inside the cabinet and clean it up himself.
Other disturbing details from the testimony revealed that Gabriel was allegedly forced to eat cat poop from their pets' litter box as a punishment. He was forced to eat rotting spinach and if he vomited, he would have to eat his own vomit, too, his siblings said. They said that their mother and her boyfriend would beat him with bats, clubs and a belt buckle, knocking out several teeth in the process. They shot BB guns at his face and pepper-sprayed him, according to the court records.
Ezequiel said that Gabriel was the only one of the three children who had to suffer from this abuse. If he tried to help Gabriel, his mother would hit him.
On the day of the fatal beating, Pearl reportedly dragged Gabriel into a bedroom for not picking up his toys, according to the L.A. Times. Aguirre went in the bedroom, too, and the siblings said they heard screaming, where Aguirre allegedly punched and kicked Gabriel even when he was on the ground unconscious. "And that's when it all stopped," his brother said. "It just went quiet." Pearl would later tell sheriff's deputies that Gabriel fell and hit his head on a dresser.
The incident prompted a statewide investigation into three county child welfare agencies for not removing Gabriel from his home despite teachers and therapists alerting authorities about their suspicions of his home abuse from him looking bruised and beaten. A worried counselor discovered Gabriel's suicidal note and called 9-1-1. A therapist told authorities that the boy was forced to perform oral sex on a relative. At the time of his death, there was another unresolved child abuse complaint in his file: the social worker assigned to the case didn't even make first contact with the family until 20 days after it was filed. Deputies visited the home several times to investigate reports of abuse and Gabriel being suicidal, but they never found any evidence. The Times reported that since then, officials have fired two social workers and two supervisors, and sent out warning letters to others.
The children had been living with their relatives since 2005. But despite Pearl's well-known history of drug use and mental health problems, she was able to regain custody of Gabriel and his two siblings in October 2012.
Pearl and Aguirre are in prison and have pleaded not guilty for charges of capital murder and a special circumstance of torture. They are awaiting trial.