Netflix’s The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a new documentary that tells a disturbing and shocking true-crime story of extreme child abuse, torture, and murder. It tells the heartbreaking story of an 8-year-old boy, Gabriel Fernandez, who suffered prolonged physical abuse that ended with his death in May 2013.
The perpetrators of the crime were his mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. The two were eventually charged with the murder of Gabriel.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is the latest true-crime documentary by Netflix, following the release of The Pharmacist and the Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.
Gabriel’s abuse and torture could have been prevented by child care workers
The docuseries looked at the systemic failures that allowed the torture of Gabriel to go on for so long despite the opportunities to stop it before it ended fatally.
This led to a related case involving social worker Stefanie Rodriguez and three workers with the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. They were charged with criminal negligence in 2016 for failing to prevent Gabriel’s death and torture. They were charged with child abuse and falsifying records related to Gabriel’s case.
The California 2nd District Court of Appeal eventually dismissed the case in January 2020.
Gabriel’s mother called 9-1-1 after he became unresponsive
The crime first came to the attention of law enforcement on May 22, 2013, when Gabriel’s mother, Pearl, called 9-1-1 to report that her son was unresponsive and had stopped breathing.
Responding officers and paramedics found the boy lying naked and unresponsive in the bedroom with bruises and burns on his skin. He also had multiple broken ribs, missing teeth, a cracked skull, and BB gun pellets lodged in his body.
Gabriel died two days later on May 24, 2013.
Gabriel Fernandez lived with grandparents before Pearl took him in
Gabriel had lived with his maternal grandparents before his mother, Pearl, took him in. He also lived with an uncle for some time.
Pearl took him in 2012, allegedly to gain welfare benefits.
His grandparents told investigators they were concerned when Pearl took Gabriel to live with her because she had a history of being neglectful and abusive to her children.
Gabriel Fernandez suffered extreme physical abuse and torture
Pearl initially claimed that Gabriel fell and hit his head, but her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, later said he beat the boy to punish him for lying and “being dirty.”
Gabriel’s two siblings went on to reveal the details of the extreme physical abuse that led to Gabriel’s death.
Prosecutors described the severity of the abuse as being very extreme. They said he suffered physical abuse and torture that was worse than many prisoners of war were subjected to.
Pearl and Isauro reportedly locked Gabriel up in a cabinet and tortured him for months. They forced him to eat rotten food, his vomit, and cat feces. They beat him with metal objects and a baseball bat. They also dressed him in girl’s clothing and called him gay because he liked to play with dolls.
L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services received multiple reports but failed to act
L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services had conducted multiple investigations into allegations of child abuse against Gabriel’s mother before he died.
The allegations stemmed from complaints by his school teacher who observed that Gabriel came to school with bruises on his body. But the child care workers who were assigned to the case failed to act.
Pearl and her boyfriend were found guilty of first-degree murder
Pearl pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2018. Her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, was also found guilty of first-degree murder and intentional murder by torture. He got the death penalty in 2018.
He is reportedly on death row in San Quentin.
A psychologist who examined Pearl concluded that she had also probably suffered abuse as a child. Pearl had reportedly been using methamphetamine since she was nine years old and dropped out of school in eighth grade.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is streaming on Netflix.