“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” is a new Netflix documentary that follows the murder trials of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.
Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre tortured her son for eight months, keeping him in a cabinet by their bed. He would sit for hours with his ankles in handcuffs and a bandana around his mouth to keep him from talking.
They would also hide him in the cabinet whenever a social worker would stop by to check in on Gabriel.
Gabriel wasn’t fed often, but if he was, his mother fed him cat litter or his siblings would sneak him food through the cabinet doors.
Other physical pain Gabriel experienced was being shot in the face with a BB gun, pepper sprayed and having cigarettes put out on him.
The boy would go to school covered in bruises and cuts. His first-grade teacher, Jennifer Garcia, called DCFS multiple times to report the abuse. As a result, Gabriel’s parents would make him suffer more. His case was closed without an evaluation shortly before he was killed.
On May 22, 2013, Gabriel was found with a cracked skull, severe burns, cuts, and bruises at the family’s apartment in Palmdale, California.
Fernandez reported to the police that Gabriel was playing with his sister and tripped. Fernandez and Aguirre were both charged with murder and convicted.
Aguirre did most of the physical damage to Gabriel, but it’s believed Fernandez instructed him to. When Gabriel was born, Fernandez left him in the hospital until family members took him in.
According to the family members present in the series, Fernandez was a drug user who experienced depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and suffered from eating disorders.
Family members also explained that Fernandez and Aguirre would call Gabriel “gay” and make him wear dresses that were found at the crime scene. All of Gabriel’s clothes were disposed of, except for two dresses.
The pair also said Gabriel was a frequent liar and would threaten that he would be the one going to jail.
The four social workers who were assigned to Gabriel’s case were each charged with one felony count of child abuse and one felony count of falsifying public records.
Charging the social workers was a huge move in the case, because it’s something that has never happened previously.
“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” shows journalist Garrett Therolf reporting on the case and unveiling Gabriel’s truth. The series director, Brian Knappenberger, did a beautiful job of showing how the eight-year-olds death not only affected those close to the case, but his entire community as well.
Fernandez and Aguirre caused horrible pain and trauma in a little boys life. They continously hurt him every day until they pushed Gabriel too far.
The fact that his siblings witnessed the abuse and carry their own regret just adds to the pain the rest of Gabriel’s family must be feeling.
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact reason why someone would do this to a child. Most people can’t imagine that there ever would be a good reason. In the series, it was discussed that Gabriel was homosexual, and his parents wanted to punish it out of him.
My heart sits heavy with the members of law enforcement who saw parts of the story first hand. Gabriel will be rembered by his teacher, family, friends, and his community.
The documentary premiered last month Feb. 26.