A man who is accused of torturing his girlfriend's 8-year-old son to death killed the child because he thought the boy was gay, a Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office prosecutor said during opening statements Monday.
Isauro Aguirre's defense attorney said his client admits to causing the injuries on Gabriel Fernandez's body, but that it only happened because Aguirre exploded in rage after Gabriel told his mom to leave her boyfriend.
Aguirre, 32, is charged with murder with a special circumstance of torture.
Prosecutor Jon Hatami detailed the acts allegedly committed by Aguirre and the boy's mother, Pearl Fernandez, who also faces trial.
Hatami explained that the Palmdale couple beat Gabriel, bit him, burned him with cigarettes, whipped him, shot him with a B.B. gun, starved him, fed him cat litter, and kept him gagged and bound in this cubby until he was found on May 22, 2013. The couple called first responders to treat Gabriel, but that was only in an attempt to mislead, the prosecutor said.
“They didn’t call 911 to help Gabriel. They called 911 to cover up what they did," Hatami said. "The defendant lied on the 911 call.”
The boy was hospitalized and died two days later. During his opening statements, Hatami showed the jury photos of the boy after he had been beaten.
The prosecutor said that Aguirre made Gabriel dress up in girls' clothes and go to school. He added that Aguirre just didn't like Gabriel and thought the boy was gay, and that was his motivation for his treatment of the child.
“Gabriel’s last vision was that man over there standing over Gabriel, beating him to death,” Hatami said.
Six-foot-2-inch Aguirre weighed 270 pounds at the time of the death, the prosecutor said, comparing his size to that of Gabriel, who was 59 pounds and 4 feet 1 inch tall.
“The evidence will show that the defendant is nothing more than a bully," Hatami said. "He was a security guard who intentionally tortured and abused a helpless and innocent little boy.”
Defense attorney John Allan said that Aguirre had a hard time handling stressful and chaotic situations.
"He is guilty of murder, but the special circumstance alleged, that he intended kill Gabriel with the infliction of torture, is not true," Allan said.
"Despite the horrific abuse, Isauro never intended for Gabriel to die," he said.
Hatami showed the jury text messages between Aguirre and the boy's mother and said they prove the couple conspired together to torture and kill Gabriel. The texts also show that the couple tried to conceal their actions against the boy in order to prevent anyone knowing that they were harming him, according to Hatami.
Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic James Cermak testified Monday said he couldn’t believe what he saw when he responded to the 911 call of Gabriel in cardiac arrest at the couple's Palmdale apartment.
“It was just unbelievable amount of trauma on his body,” Cermak said.
The trial against Aguirre is expected to last about eight weeks, and the boy's mother will be tried separately.
Four Los Angeles County social workers who were assigned to Gabriel's case also face charges in connection with the death.