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Palmdale boy in torture case had BBs lodged in groin, skin missing from his neck, nurse testifies

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A photo of Gabriel Fernandez on his third birthday in 2008.
(Courtesy of Emily Carranza)

An 8-year-old Palmdale boy who prosecutors said died after months of torture and abuse was suffering from BB gun injuries to his neck and groin area, skin was missing from his neck and there was trauma to his genitals when he arrived at the hospital, an emergency room nurse testified this week.

“There were abrasions. There were open wounds .… There was skin missing off the top of the neck, so there were multiple injuries on Gabriel [Fernandez] … head to toe,” Registered Nurse Alison Segal testified in court Friday, according to KABC-TV.

Segal was on duty at Antelope Valley Hospital when Fernandez was transported to the hospital on May 22, 2013, after paramedics arrived at the boy’s home to find him not breathing. His skull was cracked, three ribs were broken and his skin was bruised and burned. He had BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Two teeth had been knocked out.

The boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 31, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 35, were indicted in July by a grand jury on a charge of murder and a special circumstance of torture in Gabriel’s death. The couple, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, could face the death penalty.

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Aguirre is currently on trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, while Pearl Fernandez’s trial is still pending.

Grand jury testimony revealed that Pearl Fernandez had called 911 after she and Aguirre allegedly beat Gabriel for not picking up his toys. After the beating, the boy went silent and stopped responding.

During Friday’s testimony, Segal said that Gabriel’s condition was so critical that she could not do a comprehensive assessment because he had to be rushed to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, according to KABC.

“They had to resuscitate him with extreme measures,” she said.

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Gabriel’s death sparked a larger probe into the county Department of Children and Family Services, which found that there was a long history of reports of abuse in the boy’s home.

In the months before Gabriel was killed, several agencies had investigated allegations of abuse without removing him from the home.

In March, a Los Angeles County judge ruled that four social workers should stand trial on child abuse and other charges. Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Villar said that “red flags were everywhere” during the months before Gabriel died and that the social workers mishandled evidence of escalating abuse and failed to file timely reports on what was happening in the boy’s home before he was allegedly killed by his mother and her boyfriend. The judge said the workers’ conduct amounted to criminal negligence.

All four have pleaded not guilty.

Aguirre’s trial will continue on Monday.

carlos.lozano@latimes.com


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