In many parts of the world, much progress has been made when it comes to justice and equality.
Unfortunately, this is still not the case everywhere, and children, among others, continue to suffer amidst abusive circumstances.
Little is as painful to watch as when a child is persecuted, hurt or otherwise abused.
The tragic and sad story of 8-year-old boy Gabriel Fernandez clearly shows us why we should never let hatred win.
On May 22, 2013, an emergency center received an urgent call. A woman’s voice at the other end required immediate help — her 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez, had stopped breathing.
When paramedics arrived on site, they discovered a small lifeless, blue-eyed boy on the floor. He was naked, had fractures in his head and three broken ribs.
The boy had also been shot and several of his teeth were missing. Gabriel was immediately rushed to hospital, but died two days later.
“There were abrasions. There were open wounds. There was bruising. There was swelling. There was marks on the legs. There was skin missing off the top of the neck, so there were multiple injuries on Gabriel…head to toe,” nurse Alison Segal, among the staff who treated Gabriel, told ABC7.
At first, nobody understood what had happened to the boy — but it soon became apparent that this was the culmination of a very tragic story.
And worst of all — it all could, and should, have been avoided.
Between 2003 and 2012, no less than 60 reports were filed against Gabriel’s mother and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre.
Many had testified about how the couple mistreated and tortured little Gabriel.
For instance, several of Gabriel’s teachers had previously contacted authorities. The reason? Gabriel often came to school with black eyes, injured hands, scars on his body and cracked lips.
But the authorities and the police never fully followed through and got to the bottom of it.
After repeated reports, the police did eventually visit the family, but when an officer spoke to Gabriel’s mother, she claimed that her son had moved to Texas to live with his grandmother.
All accusations led to no arrests, despite overwhelming evidence and reports that Gabriel was being abused.
Following Gabriel’s death, four social workers were fired for not properly executing their job. The police also received massive criticism.
“The red flags were all over the place. They were ignored. It is just inexplicable to me,” said Los Angeles county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Soon after Gabriel’s death, both his mother, Pearl Fernandez, 34, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 37, were arrested.
Many witnesses stepped forward for the trial, and members of the jury could be seen breaking down and crying. The torture that Gabriel suffered for a long time was unimaginable.
“Punished because he was gay”
Gabriel’s older sister explained, among other things, that her mother and, above all, her boyfriend were constantly punishing Gabriel because they thought that he was gay.
That Gabriel might be gay served as a source of ridicule and abuse by the boyfriend and mother. Together, they forced Gabriel to play with dolls and forced him to dress up in girl clothes at school.
“This wasn’t about drugs. This wasn’t about mental health issues,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said. Gabriel was abused “because [Aguirre] didn’t like him … he believed Gabriel was gay and to him, that was a bad thing … he did it out of hatred of a little boy.”
Gabriel’s 16-year-old brother, Ezequiel, described the abuse in scary detail, which mainly seemed to come from Aguirre.
According to Ezequiel’s testimony, Gabriel was hit daily and was forced to eat old cat food. Ezequiel also told the jury that his brother was often bound and locked in a cabinet without food or water for hours.
The couple laughed while the torture was happening, Ezequiel said.
Gabriel’s first-year teacher, Jennifer Garcia, cried in court. She says she thinks about Gabriel every day and how he just wanted to be loved.
“I find comfort in believing he is now at peace,” she said, adding: “And I know that unlike him, his abusers will never have peace. They will have a lifetime of suffering to endure, and I know I’m not alone in hoping they experience the same abuse in their lifetime and worse.”
Mother Pearl Fernandez spoke briefly, saying she was sorry and wished Gabriel was alive writes 9 News.
She also criticized family members who’d spoken of their grief over Gabriel’s death, accusing them of seeking fame.
After a long and tedious trial, followed by people all over the country, the verdict finally came this week.
The judge sentenced the mother to life imprisonment and boyfriend Isauro Aguirre received the death penalty for Gabriel’s beyond animalistic murder.
The punishment has brought a degree of consolation to the rest of Gabriel’s family, who had been struggling for justice.
Relatives of Gabriel have long run a Facebook page and openly spoken about the boy’s terrible fate to bring attention to all horror that led to Gabriel’s death.
They also want to be a voice for Gabriel and show who he really was — before misery and torture took over his life.
Gabriel was a happy, lively and incredibly loving little boy!
Even if nothing will bring their Gabriel back, the boy’s story has had a huge impact on people everywhere and we can all hopefully prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
The case has led many to reflect on ways to improve the prevention of child abuse and hatred against those who are different.
As a result of Gabriel’s death, Los Angeles authorities have made major changes, introducing social workers to more practical exercises to help them gain more experience before working out in the field.
Reading about Gabriel’s fate is painful — I simply cannot understand how any human can torture and abuse an 8-year-old boy!
But what’s certain is that we will never forget Gabriel and I’m sharing his story in hope that no child will ever have to suffer what his terrible fate.
The only comfort for now is that the people who did this received proper punishment.
Please help spread this further to help keep Gabriel’s memory alive