PALMDALE, CA — A California man who tortured and murdered an 8-year-old boy because he believed the child was gay was sentenced to death on Thursday.
Isauro Aguirre, 37, was convicted last year of first-degree murder in connection with the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale.
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, was also sentenced on Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
At the time of Gabriel’s death in May of 2013, Fernandez and Aguirre were in a romantic relationship.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli called the couple’s behavior “beyond animalistic” and said that he hopes they wake up in the middle of the night and think of what they did to Gabriel.
According to prosecutors, Gabriel was subjected to inhumane treatment including being starved and forced to eat cat feces. He was also allegedly kept bound and gagged in a cabinet. Investigators discovered that the boy’s skull had been fractured and he had 12 broken ribs.
Lomeli called Aguirre’s behavior “nothing short of evil” when imposing the sentence. He stated that the case involved the most horrific abuse he had seen in all his years on the bench.
“It is unimaginable, the pain that this child probably endured. And from what I heard, Gabriel was a kind, loving individual who just wanted to be loved,” the judge added.
Fernandez called 911 on May 22, 2013, to report that her son wasn’t breathing. She told responding deputies that he had fallen and hit his head on a dresser. He died two days later of blunt-force trauma and neglect, according to the coroner’s office.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami explained that Aguirre abused Gabriel because he believed that the boy was gay. Gabriel’s siblings testified that Fernandez and Aguirre would call the boy gay, punish him if he played with dolls, and force him to wear girls’ clothes to school.
Under the terms of the Fernandez’ plea deal, a sentence of life in prison without parole was expected — but in November, a jury found that the special circumstance allegation of intentional murder by torture was valid. This paved the way for the death sentence.
During the court hearing, Fernandez said she was sorry and that she wished Gabriel was still alive.
Several agencies investigated abuse allegations leading up to Gabriel’s death, according to the Associated Press. But none of them found evidence of abuse.
Prosecutors have since filed charges of child abuse and falsifying records against four county social workers.