LA PUENTE (CBSLA) — The family of a small boy who died at the hands of his parents due to abuse is outraged after images of a panhandler using his image to raise funds for a fake funeral emerged on social media.
Several people posted photos of a man in La Puente asking for money for the funeral of Jose Mendoza, who supposedly died of leukemia. In reality, the photo was of Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old Palmdale boy whose gruesome death made headlines five years ago.
A witness who goes by "Mike" told CBS2 News he quickly figured out the man's ruse.
"I turned red, I was so — I wanted to scream at him and say something to him, but I didn't want to get involved," said Mike, who saw the man on the corner of Amar Road and Hacienda Boulevard Thursday afternoon. "I immediately saw his picture, and I'm like, 'The guy has the nerve to use the picture that's all over the Internet.' So, yeah, it hurt, but then it kind of turned [into] a little bit of anger."
Mike took a photo of the man and shared it on Twitter.
Another witness also shared a photo of the man, ending her tweet, "They know what they're doing is wrong smh".
"I'm a firm believer in karma, and I hope it comes back to him," echoed Mike.
Gabriel died in May 2013 after he was starved and beaten by his mother Pearl Sinthia Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre. During their trials for murder and torture, prosecutors revealed gruesome details of the boy's abuse, which included getting handcuffed, being shot by a BB gun and getting pepper-sprayed.
Fernandez was sentenced to life in prison, and Aguirre was given the death penalty earlier this year.
Gabriel's cousin told CBS2 she is outraged but has seen this type of scheme before in her neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley.
She had the following message for the persons perpetrating the lies: Gabriel suffered a lot during his lifetime. He was buried 5 years ago. Let him rest in peace.
Panhandlers are allowed to ask for money as long they don't accost the public or do it in specific areas like freeway off-ramps.
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