The boyfriend of Gabriel Fernandez’s mother was found guilty of first-degree murder in connection with the child’s death in 2013.
The jury found Isauro Aguirre, 37, guilty of killing the 8-year-old, saying that he also tortured him, KLTA reported. They announced the verdict after a four-week trial on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami said that Aguirre abused and tortured the boy. Gabriel was hospitalized in May 2013 when he stopped breathing, and medical officials found a cracked skull, broken ribs, and a BB pellet stuck in his lung and other areas, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This was intentional murder by torture,” Hatami told the jurors.
Two days later, he died.
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, is facing a separate trial in the boy’s death. She has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
Hatami embraced Gabriel’s father, who was not involved in the boy’s death.
“I’m a dad and, you know, he’s a dad,” Hatami said in an emotional statement after the verdict was rendered, according to the LA Times. “It’s just two dads and two humans in the community, just sharing the fact that maybe there was some justice.”
“Some justice, I think, has been served by this verdict, and maybe some closure can be felt by Gabriel’s family as far as at least they feel that the system … is trying to make some things right, and maybe this is a small part of that, maybe,” added Hatami, reported NBC LA. He called himself a “survivor” of child abuse at age 4 and 5.
“There are certain words we can use for this guy like murderer now, convicted murderer, so I think that makes a big improvement in what’s going on in this case,” Amanda Nevarez—who created the Facebook page Gabriel’s Justice—told the NBC affiliate. “It’s a hard feeling because it’s very emotional because it’s not quite a win because the win would have been Gabriel still alive. … We no longer have to worry about this particular person out on the streets doing this to another child.”
Prosecutor in #GabrielFernandez torture-murder case gets emotional talking about it. Says he survived child abuse and is passionate about such cases believing children need somebody to fight for them. @KNX1070 pic.twitter.com/RvlCUL3zLE
— Margaret Carrero (@KNXmargaret) November 16, 2017
The couple took him from his grandparents so that they could get welfare payments for his care, the prosecutor alleged
“Gabriel was a gentler boy, a sweeter boy (than his brother) and the defendant hated him because of that … he believed Gabriel was gay,” Hatami said. “This stressful situation and rage thing is a lie … because it’s not supported by the evidence. The defendant actually liked torturing Gabriel. He got off on it … he is a murderer and he is a torturer.”
On Nov. 27, prosecutors will present evidence in the penalty phase.
A first-degree murder conviction can get Aguirre 25 years to life in prison. He’s also eligible for the death penalty in this case.
Four Los Angeles County social workers assigned to Gabriel’s case are also facing criminal negligence charges.