The evidence and testimony in the trial of Isauro “Tony” Aguirre suspected of murdering 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez continues to be described as “unimaginable” and “horrifying” by those attending the proceedings.
This week those in the courtroom heard from a 20-year-old aunt — who was a just a teenager at the time of Gabriel’s death — testify about her attempts to stay in contact with Gabriel after contact was cut off and he wasn’t allowed to return to the care of his grandparents. So she attempted to visit him.
The aunt testified that during one visit to the Palmdale home where Aguirre lived with Gabriel’s mother Pearl Fernandez, she was told that Gabriel wasn’t there and was visiting Aguirre’s family. While the explanation for his absence was peculiar, she said she didn’t see him or hear him in the home.
She broke down on the stand, upset in knowing now, based on previous testimony from the other children who lived there, that Gabriel was bound, gagged, and starving in what was called “the box” and was likely to have been there when she attempted to see him.
During one rare occasion when Gabriel was allowed to visit his grandparents, they noticed wounds to the bottoms of Gabriel’s feet that, it’s now noted, may have been caused by his mother or Aguirre holding hot spoons to his feet.
Gabriel’s grandfather Robert Fernandez broke down during his testimony after hearing a 9-1-1 tape recording played of his now deceased wife calling to try to get help for their grandchild. A Sheriff’s deputy confirmed during his testimony that he told Gabriel’s grandparents that they had no legal standing, and the paperwork that Pearl Fernandez had previously signed allowing the grandparents to raise Gabriel allowed her to change her mind.
Robert Fernandez and his wife had raised the child in the Northeast Valley for almost eight years up to the day when Aguirre picked him up under the guise of taking him to a barbecue. Fernandez said that Aguirre told them that he would return Gabriel in time for school the next day, but the couple never brought him back.
Robert Fernandez broke down sobbing when he recounted one of his last conversations with Gabriel.
“He said he wanted to come home. I told him that…the DCFS was investigating the case and I couldn’t bring him home, but that they were, one of these days, going to bring him home,” the grandfather said, “And I promised that to him.”
Gabriel died from multiple injuries that appeared to be inflicted during the 8 months that his mother had him in her custody.
The injuries included a skull fracture, shattered ribs and severe burns. His teeth were knocked out. Buried in his skin were BB pellets; one was also found in his lung which was surprising to coroners. It was said during previous testimony that the BB gun could have been fired directly into Gabriel’s mouth to cause the BB to be lodged in his lung.
In recorded interviews with a LA County Sheriff’s detective played in the courtroom Tuesday, Oct. 31, Aguirre appeared calm according to one court room observer. A spokesperson for the Gabriel’s Justice website described Aguirre sounding“surprised” to learn that Gabriel was still alive.
Detective Elliot Uribe testified that he interviewed Aguirre three times on May 23, 2013, only hours after Gabriel was found severely beaten and unconscious at the Palmdale apartment and was rushed to the hospital by paramedics.
Uribe asked Aguirre what had happened.
Aguirre was heard on tape describing to Uribe how Gabriel made him “mad” and said Gabriel told his mother that she should leave him.
Aguirre told the detective that caused him to lose control and admitted to hitting Gabriel harder than he’d ever hit anyone.
“Maybe 10 times,” Aguirre said and then later said that he lost count of how many times he hit the child and even picked him up from the ground over and over again to hit him repeatedly.
The prosecution previously produced evidence of the child’s blood and indentations on the wall, and his DNA in the cupboard that was called “the box” where he was tied and gagged.
Pearl Fernandez will also stand trial for murder at a later date.