LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The mother of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was routinely beaten, starved, forced to sleep in a closet and tortured until his 2013 death pleaded guilty Thursday to a murder charge.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, agreed to a plea deal that will likely result in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the May 2013 killing of her son, Gabriel.
Under the terms of a plea agreement, Fernandez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and admitted a special circumstance allegation of murder involving torture.
Fernandez's agony-filled life shocked the community and led to criminal charges against social workers accused of ignoring his plight. Fernandez was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, fed cat feces and forced to sleep while gagged and bound inside a small cabinet.
During Aguirre's trial, L.A. Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami called Aguirre an "evil" man who "liked torturing" the boy and did so systematically in the months leading up to the child's death. Aguirre hated the boy because he thought he was gay, according to the prosecutor, who began his closing argument by displaying a photo of Gabriel's battered body lying on an autopsy table — covered in injuries head to toe — as evidence of Aguirre's intent to kill the boy.
"You can't believe a person in our society would intentionally murder a child," Hatami said, comparing the abuse to that suffered by a prisoner of war.
Hatami said in the months leading up to the boy's death, he was "being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten … he was belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out. He was tied up every night in a box … Gabriel was dying."
The prosecutor painted a picture of Aguirre sleeping in a comfortable bed night after night while, in the same room, Gabriel was bound and gagged inside a small cabinet with a "sock in his mouth, a shoelace (tying) up his hands, a bandanna over his face" and his ankles handcuffed.
During the trial, Aguirre's defense attorney alleged that Gabriel's mother was the one who hit the boy with a belt, shot him with a BB gun, forced him to eat cat feces and was responsible for much of the abuse prior to his death.
On May 22, 2013, L.A. County Fire Department personnel went to the family's home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in Palmdale in response to a call that Gabriel was not breathing. He was declared brain-dead that day and taken off life support two days later, on May 24.
Aguirre and the Fernandez had been jailed without bail since the boy's death. The two were subsequently indicted by a grand jury.
Two former L.A. County social workers — Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement — and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.
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