Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

About Gabriel Fernandez
Age8 Years
BirthFebruary 21, 2005
DeathMay 24, 2013 California
SiblingsEzequiel, Virginia
ParentsArnold Contreras, Pearl Fernandez

Netflix’s The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez premiered on February 26 and soon became a major topic of discussion on social media. The 2013 death of eight-year-old Gabriel is not only a harrowing tale of horrifying child abuse, but also a depiction of the failure of the very system that was supposed to protect him from his abusers. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were convicted for his death. The docuseries points out that it was not just the two abusers, but social workers who failed the victim, as we detail in Gabriel Fernandez’s wiki.

Gabriel Fernandez Was Raised by His Grandparents and Great-Uncle

Gabriel Fernandez was born on February 21, 2005 to Pearl Fernandez and Arnold Contreras. The couple had two other children, Virginia and Ezequiel.

According to Pearl’s relatives, she was abusive to her boyfriends, including Contreras. Contreras had been in and out of jail and was in prison for robbery and possession when Gabriel died.

Pearl had sent her kids to live with her parents, Sandra and Robert Fernandez, initially. When Gabriel was born, she left him with her uncle, Michael Lemos Carranza, and his partner David Martinez.

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After Carranza would raise him for four years, Sandra and Robert got custody of Gabriel. The grandparents and great-uncle with his partner, raised Gabriel in a loving household as their own son. The child was described as kind and only wanting a family that loved him.

In 2009, Pearl took Ezequiel and Virginia to live with her in Palmdale, California, while Gabriel stayed with his grandparents. The older Fernandez couple and Carranza raised him for the first seven years of his short life.

Meanwhile, Ezequiel and Virginia had suffered neglect under Pearl’s guardianship. Relatives reported to authorities that Pearl often neglected feeding her daughter and Ezequiel was injured in a car accident because of her carelessness.

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Pearl Sought Gabriel’s Custody Allegedly for Welfare Payments

Family who had been familiar with Pearl Fernandez have said that she had no interest in raising Gabriel. However, Pearl later sought custody of Gabriel when he was seven, citing concerns about how her relatives were possibly treating him.

Sandra, Robert, and Carranza, along with other relatives, had filed complaints with authorities that Pearl had neglected and mistreated her older children. But social workers would claim the accusations were unfounded. Arnold Contreras was also against Gabriel being taken out of the care of his grandparents.

Robert testified that Pearl and her boyfriend eventually took Gabriel with them, though she didn’t have custody. Despite their efforts, Pearl got custody of Gabriel in 2012, and he came to live with his mother and older siblings, as well as his mother’s boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre.

At Pearl and Aguirre’s trial, prosecutors would allege that Pearl sought custody of Gabriel to claim welfare payments. Some reports also allege that Aguirre was the one who convinced her to get custody of Gabriel.

Gabriel Was Tortured to Death By Fernandez and Aguirre

Gabriel’s teacher, Jennifer Garcia, had noticed signs of abuse on Gabriel, which got worse with time. She would report it to L.A. County’s child abuse hotline. However, case workers found no apparent cause to take Gabriel out of Pearl’s care.

The abuse turned fatal when on May 22, 2013, Pearl called 911 and claimed that her son was not breathing after falling and hitting his head on the dresser. First responders, however, found an unresponsive Gabriel with obvious signs of physical torture.

Gabriel was found with broken ribs, a fractured skull, bruises, burns, and BB gun pellets embedded in his body. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared brain dead. After taking him off of life support, Gabriel died on May 24, 2013 at the age of eight.

Contreras was informed about his son in prison. Sadly, he wasn’t allowed to see him in the hospital.

Contreras, his two eldest children, and several other relatives would testify against Pearl and Aguirre in court. The most harrowing testimonies would come from Ezequiel and Virginia themselves about the torture they inflicted on their little brother.

According to Gabriel’s siblings, Pearl and Aguirre were driven by homophobic motives for abusing Gabriel. They disparaged him for his apparent feminine traits and called him “gay.”

They’d often lock him in a cabinet, bound and gagged. Ezequiel even said they forced Gabriel to eat rotten food, cat litter, and his own vomit. They burned him with cigarettes, hit him with a belt buckle or baseball bat, and hit him with a BB gun. The siblings had also said that Pearl made them lie to social workers.

Aguirre had inflicted the final fatal torture on Gabriel in May 2013. Nonetheless, Pearl admitted that she didn’t do anything to stop him.

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Fernandez, Aguirre, and Case Workers Were Convicted in Gabriel’s Death

Pearl Fernandez and Aguirre had separate trials where their attorneys argued that neither had an intent to kill the boy. Furthermore, Fernandez’s own history of abuse, neglect, and assault that resulted in mental illnesses, as well as her low IQ, were cited in her defense.

Aguirre’s defense claimed that he had a learning disability and needed special education as a child. His employers and people who knew him testified they were in shock he abused a child. His former employers claimed that Aguirre was known as a kind and sociable caregiver in his previous job.

They were found guilty of first-degree murder and due to the nature of Gabriel’s injuries, the special circumstance of torture was added to their charges. Pearl Fernandez was sentenced to life without parole, while Isauro Aguirre was given the death penalty. But the conviction of the two abusers was far from the conclusion.

Four case workers were fired for the way they handled Gabriel’s case. They were also indicted for child abuse and falsifying records. They were accused of minimizing the evidence of Gabriel’s abuse and falsely reporting that the programs for Gabriel were working.

An appellate panel in January 2020 ruled that the social workers should not face charges in Gabriel’s death.

Ezequiel and Virginia’s privacy has been protected throughout the whole ordeal. According to the Netflix series, Gabriel’s siblings have found “safe harbor” with a family member.

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