Eight years after Gabriel Fernandez was murdered by his mother and her boyfriend, his family members are trying to raise funds for a mural to be painted in his honor in downtown Los Angeles.
“We want to take (Gabriel) out of Palmdale and take his beautiful face to Los Angeles,” said Olivia Rubio, Gabriel’s cousin. “We want to bring more awareness about child abuse and keep his name alive in the [city] of the Angels.”
Gabriel, 8, lived with relatives in Pacoima and the Northeast San Fernando Valley for most of his life. He died in May 2013 after he had been returned to his mother, Pearl Fernandez, who was then living in Palmdale.
In that home, the child suffered beatings, burns and was even shot with BB pellets by his mother and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. Pearl Fernandez eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, admitting the child’s death was intentional and committed by torture. Aguirre was convicted of first-degree murder and torture.
Several LA Locations Being Considered
A mural depicting the child’s face was painted by local artists on a wall near where Gabriel lived in Palmdale, at the intersection of Third Street East and E Avenue Q3. Rubio said she and other family members want to create “a more visible mural,” accessible to more people.
They are considering several spots for a mural in downtown LA, including near Union Station and City Hall — “somewhere where all the local people could see him” and where “more people can talk about child abuse, not hide it,” Rubio said.
Their effort comes on the heels of the announcement that Pearl Fernandez — currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole — is seeking to vacate her murder conviction and be re-sentenced.
A petition hearing for re-sentencing is set for June 1 before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli. Pearl Fernandez based her request on changes made to Penal Codes linked to murder convictions.
The announcement rankles Rubio and other relatives.
“Never in my life would I think about walking back into that courtroom after eight years,” she said. “There are people helping her inside the jail. It’s heartbreaking to think that she would be out and not have to think about what she did to Gabriel. It’s just her being so selfish.
“It set us back, but our warriors won’t stop fighting. We’re going to continue pushing to keep her there as long as she needs to,” Rubio said.
That’s why, she said, it’s important to have the mural painted.
Before the first paint strokes go up on a wall, Rubio said the family must raise between $6,000 and $8,000 to pay for the permits for the mural, buying paint and other materials, and the artist’s fee.
None of that has occurred yet.
Rubio said the family has raised $1,500 through several donations, including one from Convenient Cleaners in San Fernando.
“There is a lot of support. A lot of doors are opening, a lot of people are donating for the raffles we’re having,” Rubio said.
They plan to hold an all-day fundraising effort at El Cariso Park in Sylmar on May 15, selling food, drinks, t-shirts and other items, and also holding raffles throughout the day. Rubio said people could also donate cash or food items like water, juices, chips and hot dogs.
They hope to be able to raise a good chunk of the money they need for the mural that day.
“Maybe a rich man will just show up and give us a nice check. You never know who this little boy could touch from here to then,” Rubio said.
The most important thing, she noted, is to have the mural go up to remember a young boy who became the face of child abuse in Los Angeles.
“I know he hasn’t gotten the justice he needs. We just want to bring more awareness to other kids,” Rubio said. “We’re trying to fight the system and trying to make it better for other children.”
Rubio also encourages anyone who witnesses child abuse, or suspects a child may be a victim, to report it.
“Don’t stay quiet,” she said. “You can be the voice for that child who is hurting.”