For family members like Emily Carranza who’ve suffered the pain of losing 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and endured the emotional toll of a lengthy trial and a hard fight for justice, the news that Pearl Fernandez is seeking another re-sentencing hearing — and there’s a new law to try to get it — is yet another injustice.
Carranza, a Sylmar resident and a cousin of Gabriel, closely monitored the lengthy trail and spoke out often. She became a center for information for media and the public, and was instrumental in the formation of the Justice for Gabriel website.
“Upon hearing the news that Pearl has petitioned the court to be resentenced is ridiculous. I felt my blood boil and anger that she has the nerve to go this far,” said Carranza.
County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami agrees. “This is completely unfair to the surviving families and their loved ones,” he said.
While Gabriel’s story received national media attention, including a Netflix documentary that shocked the nation with the heinous crimes of abuse and torture the child experienced daily, it seems that there is another possible, “Hail Mary” move that his mother is gearing up to take.
“The policies and directives from my office and these new laws created by the state Legislature are emboldening murderers of children to apply to be re-sentenced,” Hatami said.
While Hatami successfully prosecuted Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, and says the overwhelming evidence was crystal clear during the trial that “Pearl Fernandez physically assaulted, bound and gagged him forcing him to sleep in a tiny closet, abused, tortured and starved Gabriel over an eight month span which lead to his death.”
Gabriel first lived in Pacoima with his grandparents before his mother under the pretense of picking him up for a visit, then refused to return him. His life in Palmdale with his mother and boyfriend was a nightmare.
Relatives said his mother just wanted him so she could receive additional welfare money.
To avoid a death sentence Pearl Fernandez pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder, but has now filed court papers seeking a new hearing of her case.
Hatami called the chance for a possible resentencing after having open and shut the case, “completely unfair to the surviving families and their loved ones”.
Now Carranza finds herself online urging the public to bring their outrage to demonstrate yet again.
Members of the Gabriel’s Justice Facebook page with other concerned members of the public will gather in front of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles on June 1 prior to the hearing.
In bold and caps, Carranza writes:
“Bring your voices! And signs! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! STOP TREATING THE CRIMINALS LIKE VICTIMS AND THE VICTIMS LIKE CRIMINALS! Gabriel deserves to finally Rest In Peace let’s fight for him and finally give him that.
JUSTICE FOR GABRIEL!!”
Carranza thought her days could turn to healing with her immediate family and grandchild. She thought she could live at an easier pace to support child advocacy and the positive projects that have been started in Gabriel’s memory.
But she now finds herself concerned that child abusers have a new law that could make them eligible for a lesser sentence.
Over the years, Carranza has appealed to legislators to push for Gabriel’s law that would give an officer on an abuse call a way to quickly cross check for DCFS history and alert the caseworker. Carranza has pinned blame not only on Gabriel’s mother and boyfriend but on Gabriel’s social workers for ignoring the boys cries for help when he tried to go to his teacher who reported the suspected abuse.
But when social workers did go to the Palmdale apartment where they lived, they accepted the mother’s claims and even accused the young boy of lying.
The head of DCFS said as a result of Gabriel’s death, improvements were made. However, the murders of two more young boys — Anthony Avalos and Noah Curatro — followed Gabriel’s death not far from Palmdale and also under the jurisdiction of DCFS.
Fernandez had already pled guilty in February 2018 and admitted to the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture to avoid a greater sentence. She had been facing a possible death sentence if the case against her had gone to trial and if she had been convicted as charged.
“Families now have to relive all the horror that was perpetrated upon a small and helpless child. Based upon all the evidence presented at the grand jury, which was made public, and the jury trial, Pearl Fernandez was a major participant in the torture and murder of little Gabriel,” Carranza said
“Pearl is the only one who believes she is innocent. I pray that the judge will deny her resentence request, and that she will spend the rest of her life in prison. She must pay the consequences of her actions. Gabriel deserves his justice. No second chances for her. May justice serve again.”