Jurors Recommend Death Penalty in Slaying of 8-Year-Old California Boy Gabriel Fernandez

December 13, 2017 Updated: December 14, 2017

A California jury has recommended the death penalty against a man who was convicted the slaying of an 8-year-old boy from Palmdale, it was reported Wednesday.

Isauro Aguirre was convicted of murder and torture in the case. His girlfriend’s son, Gabriel Fernandez, was the victim.

He was found guilty last month of first-degree murder and also guilty in the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.

When posed with the choice of recommending life in prison or the death penalty, jurors chose the death penalty on Wednesday, ABC7 in Los Angeles reported. The penalty phase began on Monday, and it took jurors two days to render their decision.

The official sentencing is slated for March for Aguirre, a former security guard said according to a KTLA report.

“It’s just really sad,” one juror told the ABC affiliate. “It’s a heartbreaking story. You just never think something like that can even happen. The things I heard – it’s just unimaginable.”

Prosecutors alleged, during the trial, that Aguirre carried out abuse over a long period of time. The boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, also allegedly partook.

Gabrial died in 2013. Pearl Fernandez will be tried separately.

William Adams, a consultant who spent more than 20 years working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told the jury that he thought Aguirre was “more likely to be prey than predator” if he got prison time, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

Prosecutors have also alleged that four county social workers were negligent in the boy’s case, CBS LA reported. They have filed charges of child abuse and falsifying records against those workers.

“There is nothing worse in our society than a grown man murdering and torturing an innocent little boy,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told the panel of jurors. “Death was likely a merciful end to Gabriel’s pain and suffering,” the prosecutor said.

One of Aguirre’s attorneys, John Alan, however, argued that “the death penalty is not required for even the most heinous crime” and added that jurors have to make “a personal, moral decision.”

He also said there was testimony from Aguirre’s co-workers, saying he showed “compassion, empathy, gentleness, kindness, respectfulness and patience” in dealing with the elderly at a facility in Woodland Hills.

“I don’t think we’ll ever truly understand how that person …gentle, kind, patient, respectful … came to commit this horrific crime,” he continued.

Alan said, “I believe that the answer, at least in part, lies where Isauro’s life intersected with Pearl’s.” He claimed Pearl Fernandez was “violent, abusive and neglected her children even before she met Isauro. Even her own family considered her a danger to her children.”

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