“Yesterday was a joyous victory,” said family member, Emily Carranza.
Carranza walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Olivia Rubio, another cousin of the late Gabriel Fernandez. They never thought they would have to make another drive from their home in Sylmar to the criminal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles after a guilty verdict was handed down against his mother Pearl, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre.
Those battles spanned years and took a toll on everyone, including the prosecutor, LA Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who the family got to know. They saw the impact the case had on him — the pressure he felt, and the commitment he had working on the case.
While anyone who heard the details of this case was affected, Carranza and Rubio learned how deeply it affected Hatami. Hatami’s father had abused him, grabbing him by his hair and throwing him across the room.
During the long trial, at times, you could see him fighting back tears as the evidence was revealed in the case. The Gabriel Fernandez trial brought him back to his own turbulent childhood of abuse and abduction, and it weighed heavily on all of them.
“It was a queasy feeling walking back into that court room after three years,” Carranza said, not knowing what the outcome would be due to the new laws that are currently in place.”
It was unthinkable to Carranza and Rubio that — after the judge had ruled and the public had heard the heinous physical abuse that was inflicted on the eight-year-old boy — that any attorney would support or recommend to Pearl to give it another round and request a re-sentencing.
“We were able to give a statement and ask that the request for re-sentencing be denied. I felt that Pearl had already admitted to the murder of Gabriel so no need for her to act as if she was innocent,” Carranza said.
Since first learning about the torture and killing of Gabriel, Carranza got through each day with her religious faith and the support that came from her community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and Palmdale in the Antelope Valley, and then stretched across the globe with emails as far as England.
Leading up to the re-sentencing decision they made themselves visible, traveling downtown to hold up signs on the sidewalk facing oncoming traffic. Some held signs for 10-year old Anthony Avalos and 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, who died following Gabriel’s death. They wanted to call attention to children who are still being abused and are in similar circumstances.
On the day the judge made his decision — Tuesday, June 1 — “Gabriel’s Warriors” stayed outside the courtroom with their banners and signs, awaiting the verdict.
Hatami walked down the steps of the courthouse with Carranza and Rubio to give them the news.
“The petition was denied,” he announced.
The crowd broke out in a loud cheer.
“It was a beautiful day of laughter tears and satisfaction. The nurse from the Antelope Valley Hospital who first worked on Gabriel came from Temecula to stand with us in this fight,” Carranza said.
Pearl Fernandez was expected to be there but according to Carranza at the last minute she refused to go so the judge went forward with his ruling without her.
“Hearing Judge George G. Lomeli going over her confession and all the evidence in place then denying her request was sweet words to my ears,” said Carranza. “God heard all our prayers. Pearl Fernandez will spend the rest of her life in prison. No second chances for a child killer.”
The Gabriel Fernandez case became a high profile child abuse torture case that forced the LA County Department of Children and Family Services into an investigation and opened the door for other child abuse cases to be exposed.
His case revealed that child abuse cases had flooded DPCFS, yet were not being properly reported and were allowed to fall through the cracks while social workers complained of overwork.
The attempt to charge the four social workers involved in the case was not successful.
“Gabriel’s Warriors” are now turning their attention to the effort to recall LA County District Attorney George Gascon who they believe has a reform agenda that will reduce the sentences of criminals.