Crime & Justice

Man convicted of first-degree murder in torture death of Palmdale 8-year-old

Gabriel Fernandez, 8, of Palmdale, was tortured and murdered, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend. Four county child services workers involved with his case have been notified they will be fired.
Gabriel Fernandez, 8, of Palmdale, was tortured and murdered, allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend. Four county child services workers involved with his case have been notified they will be fired.
NBC L.A.

Isauro Aguirre, a man accused of torturing his girlfriend's 8-year-old son to death, was determined to be guilty for first-degree murder with special circumstances of torture on Wednesday.

Aguirre, 37, faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. The jurors will reconvene on Nov. 27 to begin the sentencing phase of the trial. 

Gabriel Fernandez died after being rushed to the hospital with burns, a broken skull and broken ribs on May 24, 2013. Firefighters were called to the apartment that day to find Fernandez covered in bruises and not breathing. 

The boy's mother, Pearl Fernandez, also faces murder charges in a separate trial. She also faces the possibility of a first-degree murder conviction.

Prosecutor Jon Hatami described Aguirre as an "evil" man who enjoyed torturing the boy during the trial's closing arguments Monday, KABC-TV reports

"Almost every day the defendant was sleeping in a bed, inside that bedroom was Gabriel. A sock within his mouth, shoelace tied up his hands, a bandanna was over his face, his ankles were handcuffed, and he was locked in there almost every day," Hatami said, according to KABC-TV.

Hatami argued that Aguirre tortured the child because he thought he was gay, and that Aguirre and his girlfriend attempted to keep their abuse hidden by using makeup to cover Gabriel's bruises, according to reporting by KTLA.

The defense argued that Aguirre did not intend to kill Gabriel, though he did admit to hurting him, KTLA reports. His attorneys said Gabriel wanted his mother to break up with Aguirre, which made him angry.

The boy's death sparked an investigation into the county Department of Children and Family Services, which was accused of not fully examining the signs of Fernandez' abuse. An L.A. County judge ruled in March that four social workers should stand trial on child abuse for failing to appropriately respond to the "red flags" in the months leading up to his death, the LA Times reports

The jury began deliberating Aguirre's case on Tuesday and announced Wednesday morning they had reached a verdict.