LOS ANGELES — When paramedics arrived at the Palmdale home of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, he was unconscious with a cracked skull, had three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Fernandez was declared dead and taken off life support two days later.
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Prosecutors will begin presenting evidence and witness testimony today to a jury in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse about why a Palmdale man should be sentenced to death for the May 2013 death of Fernandez, his girlfriend’s son. Prosecutors are expected to take five days making their case, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
This extra part of the trial, called the penalty phase, takes place when the defendant faces the death penalty. Otherwise, sentencing takes place after the jury reaches a guilty verdict.
The defense is expected to spend next week explaining why the boyfriend should receive life in prison without the possibility of parole, Santiago said.
THOUGHT BOY WAS GAY
Isauro Aguirre, 37, was found guilty November 15 of first-degree murder with a special allegation that the murder was committed with the infliction of torture.
Jurors were told that the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Aguirre enjoyed torturing the small boy and systematically brutalized him because he thought Fernandez was gay.
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TORTURED THE BOY
In the months leading to Fernandez’s death, Aguirre forced him to eat cat litter and feces and locked him bound and gagged in a small cabinet overnight, according to witness testimony.
Aguirre’s defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael Sklar, did not dispute that Aguirre beat and tortured Gabriel, but claimed the boy’s death was an accident.
MOTHER FACES DEATH PENALTY
Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, also is accused of participating in the murder and abuse of her son and faces one count of murder with the special circumstance allegation of torture.
She is scheduled for a pre-trial conference December 6.
SOCIAL WORKERS CHARGED
Gabriel’s horrific death led to four L.A. County social workers, who allowed Gabriel to remain at the home despite six investigations of the mother and numerous reports of the boy’s injuries, to be charged with felony child abuse and falsifying public records. The four have pleaded not guilty.
Phillip Zonkel contributed to this report.