The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020) s01e03 Episode Script

Failure at All Levels

What the f? Don't fuckin' "Fernandez" me! Don't fuckin' "Fernandez" me! - I'm trying to talk to you.
- What? What? Am I disrespecting you? I don't give a fuck if you're not fucking disrespecting me.
- What? Fernandez, what? What? - I need to talk to you.
What the fuck, tell me what the fuck you're taking from my room, then? You're gonna go over there and see.
Calm down.
Yeah, I go there and see.
After you guys fuckin' take it.
I wanna know what the fuck you guys are taking from my fucking room.
Hey, give me back the cuffs.
Give me back the cuffs, or it's gonna hurt.
Put your hands through the slot.
Well, fucking fucking take 'em off.
- You guys wanna fucking crack my - Why are you acting this way? fucking bleed.
Listen, why are you acting this way? I don't get it.
Why the fuck you guys cracked my fucking nail make me That's not what I'm trying to do, nobody is.
Give me back the cuffs.
My fucking hand's in there.
Just fucking got me a 31 A fucking 30-day fucking ho - Put your hand inside.
- A 30 fucking - Put your hand inside.
- A 31-day fucking hold You guys fucked all my fucking makeup that I fucking paid for Put your hand inside.
All you guys are bitches.
That's why all of you guys had to come up here.
That's why all you fucking putos had to come up here.
This was another heart-wrenching day in court today, the trial of Gabriel Fernandez More disturbing testimony today in this capital-murder trial There really isn't a reprieve in this case.
Each day of this trial, very difficult The evidence and testimony in this case have been graphic and disturbing.
We cannot possibly show you all the pictures of this little eight-year-old boy, Gabriel Fernandez.
Eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died back in 2013.
Right now his mother's boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, is on trial for his murder.
- Got it? - Yeah.
Hold on.
The way this was portrayed initially is that, these are just two monsters, in this one isolated incident.
But as you go through the trial, you realize that it's much more complicated than that.
People here want they want to know the truth.
They wanna know what actually happened, and they want him to admit what he did.
And looming in the background, is this other person, Pearl Fernandez.
What's her role in all of this? I'm gonna show you what's previously been marked as People's Notebook one, page three.
And who's that a picture of? Pearl.
And is Pearl your sister? Yes.
Gabriel's mom? Yes.
And do you see, uh Pearl's boyfriend here in court today? Yes.
Can you point him out and tell the court, uh, where he's located? He's there in the plaid shirt.
Are you identifying the defendant? Yes.
During that time where Gabriel was living with the defendant and Pearl, did you see other injuries to Gabriel? He went over one time with a black eye, and his teeth were missing.
Regarding the black eye, did you ask Gabriel, how he got that black eye? Uh, yes.
We all did.
He said he was play-fighting with his brother.
And regarding that black eye, did Gabriel ever tell you, any other different story regarding how he got that black eye? Yes.
Did he finally tell you what happened? - Yes.
- And what did he say? He said his mom hit him in the eye.
- Did you take that photograph? - Yes.
The fact that he had a fat lip and a haircut like that, did that concern you? Yes.
Did he indicate to you, when his mom hit him in the eye, was anybody holding him down? No, he just said his mom hit him.
Do you think, if I showed you a transcript of a statement you made to the grand jury, in a social worker case, it would refresh your memory regarding exactly what you said? - Yes.
- And may I approach, Your Honor? And Ms.
Fernandez when the question was, "Did Gabriel ever tell you, how he got that fresh black eye?" Your answer was, "Yes, he said my my sister's boyfriend, Isauro, had held him down, and they were socking him.
" When you said that they were socking him, "Who was socking him?" That was the question, "My sister.
" And so there was multiple occasions where you saw Gabriel with a black eye, the time that he was living with the defendant, Pearl.
- Yes.
- Did you ask him what happened? I think she said, uh, "His mom socked him.
" Right? That was the first time, but, like I'm saying, I can't remember, 'cause it wasn't only one time.
- It was a lot of times.
- It was several times.
I couldn't help, because I was I was underage.
Was it also scary for you? Objection.
- I'll allow it.
- Not at the time.
Because I didn't think that they were gonna do that to him.
Until we started seeing Objection.
Asked and answered, Your Honor.
what was happening.
That's when we started getting nervous.
So the more injuries you saw on Gabriel, you started getting nervous.
Yeah, so I started sleeping over to make sure they wouldn't get hurt.
Sleeping over at his at the apartment? Yes.
To protect Gabriel? All of 'em.
All of the kids.
The defense was going for this position of Isauro was just this naive, young, unassuming, sweet guy, and then he met Pearl.
Good morning, Malissa.
Good morning.
Let me say, before I start asking questions that I think it's clear to all of us, here in the courtroom, watching you testify, that this is very difficult for you to think back, and that is painful for you.
At the time that he was taken to live with your sister and Tony, you were concerned, at that moment, for Gabriel's safety, right? Yes.
And, uh, you were concerned for his safety in that moment, because you knew that your sister Pearl had a bad temper? Yes.
Tony is the name that everybody in your family used to refer to Mr.
Aguirre, right? Yes.
He was nice to you, wasn't he? Yes.
He sometimes bought things for you.
Honestly, I thought he was a good guy.
He would work, he had a car.
He wasn't involved in drugs or gangs or anything.
And I thought, well, maybe this would be a new start for her.
Like maybe he would change her around.
But, obviously, that was wrong.
I felt like, in some ways, if you've seen him, if you see what he looks like, and you've seen how Pearl was she always dressed in short dresses, and showing her breasts and lots of makeup.
He thought maybe, like, he can never get another girl that looked like Pearl.
And so he better do what she says.
My niece was always controlling with her boyfriends.
They would do what she says.
If not, she would leave 'em.
A lot of the family wants to blame just Tony.
I hear a few people say, she was a victim, and didn't know how to get out of it.
If you knew Pearl, Pearl was never the victim.
When her and Tony would fight, she was the abusive one.
To him.
- She would sock him in front of us.
- She would hit him.
She'd scratch him.
She was the abuser.
And, like my husband said, it wasn't the first boyfriend she had like that.
And I felt like, she knew she had him where she wanted him.
Did Pearl have a temper? Objection, relevance.
I'll allow that.
Just that part.
Did she ever strike Virginia, - that you know? Would Did you see it? - No.
- Okay, did you, um hear it? - Yeah.
How did you meet Pearl? Um I met her through one of her uncles, uh, George.
We used to work at the graveyard shift, restocking and unloading trucks.
She was turning 23.
- How old were you? - Twenty-one.
She was actually pregnant with Gabriel, when we were dating.
I was there when he was born, and I was there when she felt what she felt, and cried when she cried, you know, holding him.
So I was kind of like, with what process did that happen? Like, where did it change? I like angels, you know, there's a God and there are angels.
They kind of help, in a spiritual way.
What I liked about Gabriel is, he was the archangel of health.
He gives you faith.
I knew that name was strong, so that's why I told her to, like, name him Gabriel.
And she did.
How can I describe her? Broken and lost.
There's a lot of things where it doesn't make sense.
What do we know about Pearl's background? In reading the report of a neurocognitive evaluation, by a clinical psychologist, who interviewed Pearl at length, over ten hours, over four days, some of the important findings were, first that Pearl has very limited intellectual capacity, and functions really at the very low end of the scale for almost all of the cognitive tests, that she was administered.
She did not attend school after the eighth grade.
And she used drugs from a very early age.
So that, during the period when brain development is taking place, she may have sustained, you know, some damage from the drugs she was using.
She, herself, has been variously diagnosed, during her life, with a depressive disorder, developmental disability, a possible personality disorder, possible PTSD, right frontal abnormalities on recent brain scans, and an eating disorder.
So she, obviously, struggles with a lot, you know, every day, all day.
What does it say about, sexual abuse? The report mentioned a history of gang rape, and an attempted rape by her uncle, as well as an exposure to domestic violence, as a child and an adult.
Pearl, being abused, I had heard, from other family members, my aunts and cousins that knew her as a child, um, they told me, that she was abused.
It wasn't until after I read in the LA Times, that Pearl gave a statement saying that Sandra, her mother, hated her.
That she ran away when she was 11, that she was gang-raped for two days.
So now she's bringing light, to what she went through as a child, with her parents.
I think all of these things give us some idea of her sense of the outside world, and its dangers to her, and her potential victimization.
Pearl, herself a victim, does not see that child as someone to be protected, but rather is in contact, with the part of herself that didn't get protection, and, you know, is probably enraged.
And she's at the mercy of her own aggressive feelings.
Like her son, she, probably, had no one to turn to.
And maybe Isauro, in his pseudo macho whatever, seemed to her like a protector.
In the abuse, that Pearl and Isauro delivered, things may have triggered them, that we are not aware of.
And so I think, you know, Pearl never felt herself to be of value, and I'm sure Gabriel never did either.
That's his tia Malissa and his grandma.
And Gabriel.
His first Christmas.
Pearl didn't want the pregnancy.
She didn't want to continue it.
And when she had him, she left the hospital and left him there.
She gave all rights to my brother Michael, at first.
I believe, for about a year and a half, he was with Michael and David.
They were both very good with him.
They would take him everywhere.
He would always be clean and happy.
If you see his pictures as a baby, he was always smiling.
They loved being with him and raising him, and Gabriel loved them both very much.
When he was in Pearl's custody, somebody called to report that they thought he was molested by his uncle.
Nobody really has been able to confirm or deny this allegation.
I don't believe my brother-in-law or David would have ever touched Gabriel in any way, they loved him so much.
The way that enters the case, is that both Isauro and Pearl call him gay.
Maybe they were trying to have a reason, to hurt him.
The rumors are, they were trying to beat that out of him.
ICE got hold of me.
I was petrified.
When you're being deported, or they try to deport you, the whole situation is stressful for everybody.
I haven't been here for 38 years.
I don't know what the country's about, at all.
Not having my family here too, you know, being gay.
I was petrified too because I was leaving Michael and Gabriel behind.
But now I don't feel like I don't feel like I'm alone over here.
I feel like they're with me to uh to this moment.
We knew about Gabriel being born.
We were close with Pearl, and she didn't want him.
And the family didn't want her to have him.
We convinced her to have Gabriel, and for her to give it to us, so we will raise him.
And we picked Gabriel at the hospital when he was three days old.
She called Michael and said, "Come and get your kid, he's getting on my nerves already.
" - That's what she said? - That's what she said.
- To a three-year-old - Three-days-old baby.
She said, "He cries too much".
And it was funny, 'cause, I mean, as soon as I picked him up, my body had, you know, some energy that calmed him down.
He stayed with us for almost four years.
Till the grandpa, Robert, said that two gay guys shouldn't be raising a kid.
I confronted him, "Why you say that? You didn't want him to be born, you didn't want him when he was born.
" Nobody in the family wanted him.
Everybody could see that the baby was very happy with us.
He hardly cried.
He hardly got sick and he was happy, giggling all the time.
The years of his life, he gave me so much pleasure.
And I thank Pearl for that, you know, for giving him life.
Even though she took him away.
At the time that Gabriel died, there was an open DCFS investigation, into allegations that you and Michael had sexually abused Gabriel.
The allegations were false.
We never sexually abused Gabriel, at all.
We, no We were not that type of parents.
You know, we loved him to death, but never in our mind, crossed, you know, to do something like that.
There were rumors that he was gay.
And it's like, "No, my baby's not gay.
Why are you guys saying that?" Robert keeps on saying, "Ah, because he says that he loves you guys.
You two faggots.
" You know, it's like, that doesn't make him gay.
When was the last time you saw Gabriel? In the middle of the night, Michael was sleeping, and Gabriel came to me.
And he scared me, 'cause I mean, he wasn't saying anything, he was just standing there and woke me up.
And I saw him going like this, and I said, "Baby, what's what's going on?" He says, "I'm scared.
" And I say, "Scared of what?" He said, "I'm scared of Tony.
" I say, "Why? He's not hitting you, is he?" And he didn't say anything.
He didn't tell me anything more.
I feel that I failed him because, I mean, I didn't get the clue that he was giving me.
I feel guilty and a lot of pain because of it.
In the hospital, Sandra had pulled off his life support.
And we were not allowed to see him.
When we got to the hospital the day before, he was still alive, and he was going to talk to me.
And I knew how I was going to wake him up, from the coma, by telling him that he was coming home with me.
It hit me very hard.
He was my baby.
I've never known pain before until he passed away.
I will always love him until I die.
I didn't see any pictures until they showed it on TV.
When I saw all the bruises and and what they had done to him, and I learned too that he was in that little closet, up till now I cannot picture him in there.
It doesn't go into my head, you know, not my son.
Not my son.
He lived with Michael and and David first.
And then my sister wanted Gabriel, so he went to live with his grandmother.
You may call your next witness.
People call Robert Fernandez.
All right, Mr.
Will you raise your right hand, face my clerk? Regarding, um, Gabriel, was he raised by you and Sandra? Yes, practically.
Was he like a son to you? Yes.
Was Ezequiel and Virginia also living with you and Sandra for some time? Yes off and on, most of their lives, yes.
And then they went to go live with your daughter, Pearl and Tony.
Gabriel's older siblings are Ezequiel and Virginia.
And they all three have the same parents.
Arnold Contreras and Pearl Fernandez.
There's not too much evidence that Ezekiel or Virginia were abused.
There was one time where Pearl hit Virginia, but never to the extent that Gabriel was abused.
There's something called the Family Scapegoat Syndrome, where one child is the subject of all of the family's failing, their shame or regret.
For whatever reason, in this case, it was Gabriel Fernandez.
In 2011, Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez had gotten Ezequiel and Virginia, and in 2012 they got Gabriel.
And our theory, based upon the evidence, was they took him only because of welfare money, which they started getting from October to May.
Aguirre ended up lying and saying that they were gonna take Gabriel to a barbecue at Aguirre's parents house, and Robert ended up finding out there wasn't a barbecue.
Then Sandra called the police and said he was kidnapped.
Definitely, Robert and Sandra did not want Gabriel away from their custody or control.
You know, all of these things are very difficult for children to understand.
Why does someone disappear and what does it mean, and are they ever coming back? We all, as biological beings, have to attach to some kind of caretaker figure, we depend on it.
So if that goes poorly, if a baby cries and there's no response, and it's left in a state of fragmentation, need, hunger, for a long period of time, it can't manage those feelings.
I remember that one time that I I don't know, I think I was at the store, and he started telling me that he wanted to come home.
- He said what? - He said he wanted to come home.
Did you bring him home? I told him that, that they were being the DFS was investigating the case, and I couldn't bring him home, but they were gonna one of these days bring let him come home.
And I prom I promised that.
To him.
Asked and answered, Your Honor.
Anything further, Counselor? Did you promise to take him home? He just said he did.
No further questions.
And that was the beginning of the end for Gabriel.
I understand you're prepared to call your next witness.
Yes, Your Honor.
People, call Arnold Contreras.
All right.
Sir, if you could raise your right hand? Arnold had gotten released from custody about a year and a half ago, and he called me.
And he said, "Hey, I'm Gabriel's dad, and I wanna come meet you.
" I said, "Oh.
" Arnold had been prosecuted by our office, on more than one occasion, and so, you know, Arnold was like, "I wanted to kinda see who you were, exactly, you know, what kind of prosecutor were you.
" And there was a real lack of trust because, you know, I'm a prosecutor, I work with the police and, you know, he's been in custody and we hit it off.
Contreras, I wanna show you some photographs, first on Exhibit Notebook Eight, page 18.
Is that a photograph of you? - Yes.
- And who's that? Gabriel and Arnold.
- And Gabriel's on top? - Yes.
I can tell you that he loved Gabriel and he still loves him.
I can tell you that he's heartbroken.
I can tell you that he feels it's his fault, and that if he was out of custody, he would have saved Gabriel.
How did you get notified that, um Gabriel was murdered? I was in I was in Riverside County Jail and the chaplain pulled me out, into the visiting room.
And said that that he was on life support, and that they were gonna they were gonna pull they were gonna take him off, uh, the next day.
And he's a dad.
Just like all of us, you know, everybody's a dad.
He's kinda got a different little path, but don't we all? Don't we all.
I don't think I'd be strong as him, I couldn't sit in that courtroom.
I couldn't do it, because I'd have to go attack somebody.
Yeah, I I couldn't do it.
Do you miss him? A lot.
If you had a chance to tell him something, one thing, if he were still alive, what would it be? I'm sorry.
Sorry for not being there.
There was a period of time before they separated their two cases, where they were both gonna be in one case.
But every time we were in the courtroom, Pearl would just yell at Isauro, like, "You're lying.
You're a liar.
" Why do you have to spread rumors, huh? Let Let Let's Let's uh - Why you gotta go and tell them - Mr.
Ferna Ms.
that you didn't you didn't go and kill my baby? As each day goes by you get more and more pieces of the story.
Every time, you got an answer to a question, it seemed to lead to more and more questions.
She put Isauro Aguirre into the lives of her children.
And there was evidence that she not only watched him torture Gabriel, but she was an active participant.
Detective, uh, O'Quinn, you can go ahead and have a seat.
Thank you.
At the Antelope Valley courthouse lockup, in the basement of the Antelope Valley Court, are holding cells.
Uh, the two persons involved in this case, including the defendant, were brought for a court appearance.
I coordinated with the Hi-Tech detail of the LA County Sheriff's Department to wire two adjacent cells for recording, audio recording.
So one cell was Pearl Fernandez? - Yes.
- OK.
- And one cell was Isauro Aguirre? - Yes.
The device in defendant Aguirre's cell uh, did not function properly.
The device in Pearl's Fernandez cell did.
And with the court's permission, Your Honor, we're gonna play what's previously been regarded as Exhibit Notebook, uh, Eight, page 57.
Babe! Did you When you talked to your did you say it was an accidental death? Huh? When you talked to your did you tell him it was an accidental death? Do you know why they got that murder charge on me? Do you know why they got that murder charge on me? Because you said I was inside the room.
And I said, no, that I was not there.
I wasn't inside the room.
That I went inside the room in the beginning, to put sweats on.
Then me and Virginia went to the living room.
So Pearl's asking him, you know, "Babe what did you tell 'em? Did you tell him that you were in the other room? Did you tell him that you were in this room? You know, she wanted to make sure that their stories were consistent.
But they just don't know about the torture part.
They're like, "How in the hell did he get this," "How in the hell did he get that?" And, you know, I was like, "He admitted that he fell off his fuckin' dirt bike.
" Remember that time that he fell off the dirt bike? And then somehow, it turns sexual.
It does speak to whether or not this whole thing was a form of foreplay for them.
You should use your imagination.
You remember when I was laying on the bed and I was playing with myself? And you had me on video tape? You remember that? Once Pearl and Isauro were arrested, the police confiscated a lot of things from the house.
And also did some discovery on their phones, and checked their text messages.
It seemed like they would relate to one another through mutually abusing this child.
April 15th, Tony: "What are you doing, babe?" Pearl: "Still here with Gab.
" Tony: "Still in the cold water? That sucks for him.
" May 7th, Tony: "Love you babes.
Stop giving him attention.
" Pearl: "Am not.
It just hurts.
" Tony: "I know, that's why I told you I'll handle him.
" May 9th, Tony: "What are you doing, babe?" Pearl: "Looking at murder cases.
And you, babe?" You can tell that there was something going on in terms of coordinating.
You know, if you were to remove one of them would this have happened? They both did it, they both abused him.
He would be the one kicking him.
He would be the one socking him.
Who did the burning, who did the things, the torture parts? The actual torturing, you know the burning and and the BB guns? And I feel like, that would be her.
That would be her to have that power that that sickness in people's head, that where they need to se somebody suffer.
Carmen Le Norgant, who was with Antelope Valley Children's Center was visiting with Pearl and Gabriel, as part of the voluntary family maintenance track, a supportive services track.
So, Carmen Le Norgant, she's visiting with the family, and everything seems to be fine.
And then right as she's about to leave, Pearl says, "Oh, there's just one more thing I wanna show you," and she goes in the back room, and she pulls out a letter.
It was one suicide note, but there were some other little notes too.
There was three or four in total.
Pearl handed these notes to Carmen Le Norgant when she was about ready to walk out of the house.
Carmen got really concerned.
She calls the child welfare hotline.
Child Protection Hotline.
Jane Hamilton.
How may I help you? Hi, my name's Carmen, and I am an in-home counselor.
- OK.
- And a six-year-old child named Gabriel, his mom showed me some notes that he had written, that he wanted to kill himself.
- Mm-hmm.
- And when I did ask him, if he did know if he wanted to do that today or now, he said, "Yes.
" They start asking questions.
They wanna know if it's a real suicide attempt.
They're asking if he has a plan, if, you know, he really has any intentions of actually hurting himself.
But they're not asking Gabriel.
They're asking Pearl.
Is it okay if I give you the phone to the mom? - Mm-hmm.
- Okay, hold on.
Hello? Okay, so you said that you saw the note that your son wrote.
When was this? - It was the day before yesterday.
- How did you get hold of the note? My oldest actually showed it to me.
He goes, "Mom, look what Gabriel's been writing.
" Mm-hmm.
So has anything been escalating through this week or so, that you noticed any type of odd behavior with him? No.
She sounded pretty smooth, 'cause she's smart.
Um, and it has a lot to do, with her involvement with DCFS over these years.
And it wasn't just this eight months with Gabriel.
It was way before that.
Learning how to deal with them and what to say.
You had a conversation with him about the note? Yeah.
We had a conversation, and he had, right now, the, um therapist was on the phone with him.
He had said because recently, he's been wanting to go to my mom.
- He wanted to go to your mom? - Uh-huh.
Pearl says, "No, actually, you know what, I think this is, I think he wants attention.
He used to live at my mom's house.
He wants to go back there.
And so he wrote this note.
So how is he doing right now as we're speaking? - Good.
- So it doesn't sound like there's no imminent risk of him doing something to himself? Is that correct? No.
I think if he wanted to do something, he would have done it a long time ago.
And it's been a week and a half since he wrote - It's been two weeks already.
- Mm-hmm.
So it's, like, all he's been telling me is that he wants to go to his grandma's.
And that he's sorry because he's putting me through this.
I just find it odd that Pearl presented it to Carmen when she was leaving.
She had never tried to help Gabriel.
So why all of a sudden now, are you going to present something to Carmen to try to help him? Maybe Pearl was trying to set it up a little bit as far as "Here are these suicide notes," because in her mind she's thinking, that they were gonna get rid of him.
I know that the truth is the most interesting story, and I also know that the truth is very complicated, right? And so if I wanted to get to the truth of this story, it can't just be on its face.
These two people are evil and they murdered this child, like, what are all the intervening factors at play here? How did this come to be? You may, uh, call your next witness.
People, call Jennifer Garcia.
Between October 2012 to May 2013, where did you work? Summerwind Elementary School.
- Currently, you're still working there? - Yes.
- Are you still teaching first grade? - Yes.
I first met Gabriel when they called me to the office, and they said you have a new student.
And then they said, "Do you want to come up and meet the parents?" So, I introduced myself to them, mentally in my head I was just, like, thinking I don't want to get on their bad side.
They looked like intimidating people.
The first incident that I became aware that something wasn't normal he just started asking me a couple questions.
"Is it normal for your mom to hit you with a belt?" I'm like, "Well, yeah, you know, some parents do that.
" And then he said, you know, but is it normal to bleed? And I think right there I was like, I knew I was gonna call the hotline that day after school, and that's what I did.
Thank you for holding.
This is Steve Reid.
How can I help you? Hi, yeah, I need to find out if I need to make a report or not.
- Are you a mandated reporter? - Yeah.
You wanna run it by me first to see if it's reportable? Yeah.
I'm a teacher, and so the student comes up to me and he mentions that his mom hit him, with a belt.
And he said, "So is that normal, to hit with a belt?" And I'm like, "Well, I don't really know, you know.
What else happened?" And he's like, "Well, sometimes my mom makes me bleed.
" And I said, "Well, where do you bleed?" And he says, "Well, on my bottom, 'cause she hits me with a belt.
" And he's like, "You know that part with the metal on it?" - Mm-hmm.
- He's like, "That part.
" Okay.
Yeah, let me stop you there.
Yeah, that that'd be reportable.
Did somebody call you that day or the next day, you know, saying they're assigned to the case, or what do you remember? Yes, I got a phone call, from somebody who identified herself as Stefanie Rodriguez, and she said she was assigned to the case.
Stefanie was an emergency response worker, who answered to a supervisor, and she was basically new to the department.
Unfortunately, this is one of the not so smart thing that the department does.
They put new workers into the emergency response, which is probably one of the most important departments in the agency, because you're the one that's first on the scene.
You're the one to first to evaluate everything that's happening in this family.
Emergency response should be people that have been around a while, people that know the system, people that are able to confront these families, and do these things.
As far as I'm concerned, Stefanie was a good worker.
I don't know anything bad about Stefanie.
I can't tell you anything bad.
A child asking the teacher, if it's normal to get hit with the metal part of a belt, would necessitate a referral to the hotline, which the teacher made.
Had that been properly investigated, and had services been put in place, we might never have gotten to the next step or the next injury.
As a worker, an experienced worker or supervisor, have an obligation to take that child to a doctor.
To take that child to a nurse.
To get third-party confirmation.
And that's just an expectation that there should be no question about.
I am a child abuse doctor, who became a child abuse doctor at a time, when there were really no training programs, etc.
, in the field of child abuse.
But I had been recruited back to LACUSC by the dean of the medical school here, to build a child abuse program, that had fallen on hard times.
So I said, "We're gonna create a system" and started the first hub here, at the med center.
The idea being that we would be available to see every child, in this county, no matter what.
Twenty-four hours, seven days a week, we would be here.
And then, we would back DCFS.
When the social worker was pushed to the wall what to do with this kid bring the kid in, I'll see them.
I don't want you to make a mistake that results in a kid dying, or being taken away from his parents.
And so the social workers kne they had a partner.
Things that would have saved Gabriel's life.
Like, if a mandated reporter, like a teacher, reports the case, you absolutely have to have them seen at a hub.
If there's any physical findings, the kid has to be seen.
That's why we were there.
That's why we wanted to be there.
If Gabriel had reached a medical hub, it would have almost certainly saved his life.
At that point, he had very significant injuries.
A doctor would have surely noticed that this was a victim of very serious child abuse.
The social workers that were assigned to Gabriel Fernandez had this benefit right there waiting for them, and yet at no point, did they ever obtain a warrant, requiring Pearl to take him there.
- Whoa.
- I'm still on the six.
One, two I was in class with Gabriel, and he was always nice to me.
Like, he was my friend.
He was kind, generous.
He was he got As in class.
- He got As? - Yeah.
He earned an award.
I believe it was the reading award.
He was right next to me.
He was happy, like, he was really happy.
But then I felt bad for him because, he said that his mom couldn't make it.
But it it really didn't faze him, he was still happy.
Like, 'cause at least he's making something good out of his self.
He was nice to other people, especially students in his class.
But that's until he started being absent, and he was telling, like, the students in his class, that his mom's boyfriend was hitting on him.
And that's when he just started being kind of a little bit mean, because what was going on.
But I am not saying he was a bully or anything like that, but he was like he had, like, a bad temper.
I just noticed wherever I moved him, things kept happening.
One time, I remember specifically, "Oh, can you pick up that pencil?" And he yelled, "That's not my pencil! Aah!" And he was so mad.
And it was like, "Okay, never mind.
" I just picked it up.
"It's okay.
" I remember outside once, you know, he was kicking the wall.
Just mad about something that typically wouldn't warrant being so angry.
One day he walked in, and he had these chunks of hair just like cut out, in a random pattern, all over his head.
And then underneath each little patch, there would be like this bloody, starting to heal, scab underneath.
Garcia, are you able to see that photograph? Yes.
Does at least some of that haircut, shown in that photograph, appear to be consistent, with how you saw Gabriel's hair, - around November 29th, 2012? - Yeah.
Did you see any cuts or anything on the head, regarding his missing hair, or do you remember anything like that? Yes, there was a lot of cuts under the parts that were shaved really, really short, and there was a pretty big cut on his ear.
And this picture shows a little bit of a looks like a fat lip or something.
- Yes.
- Did he have something like that around - that time period of November 29th? - Yes.
Did you ask Gabriel? Did Gabriel tell you what happened to his lip? Yes.
He said his mom's punched him in the mouth.
I called the principal to my room.
I called Gabriel to the door, and I said, "Come over here" and I was telling the principal like, "You got to see, like, can we take pictures?" He immediately just stopped, he said, "Uh-oh.
Sit down, son.
Sit down.
" And then he said, you know, "We don't investigate, that's investigating.
We don't do that".
You know, if we see something, we just report it.
But we don't investigate.
I didn't ask him for any more help after that.
At that time, I called Stefanie Rodriguez back.
I told her, you know, everything with the haircut, with the busted lip.
She didn't really say much.
She'd repeat, like, maybe what I said, and then she would just "Okay.
" Like, you know, that she was just taking the information.
That's when Gabriel was really withdrawn from the other kids.
He didn't want to go outside and play.
He'd just kinda stay.
"Do you need any help?" And then I'd give him stuff to do.
There were days where he did not want to go home.
Just didn't wanna get on the bus.
He would be crying, "I don't wanna go.
" He would tell me, "Can you call that lady?" And I was like I never told him I called a lady.
So, two things went on my mind, one is Stefanie Rodriguez actually went out there.
Because he knew, you know, who she was.
And then two, you know, he wanted me to call her, like it was helping.
The next thing after that, was he came into school.
He walked in late, and we all looked over, and all the kids were like, "Ooh.
" He just looked horrible.
His eyes were all swollen, like I said he looked like a cat, kind of, like, squinty, just weird looking, and then he had little bruises, like, all over his face.
So I waited until recess time, I just called him over, and I said, "So what happened?" And he said, "Oh, well, I I fell playing," or something, and I just knew that that was not you don't fall and get look like that.
And so I said, "What really happened?" And then he got mad.
I remember he said, "My mom shot me in the face with a BB gun.
Okay?" And I just remember being like, "Oh, my gosh.
" And I said, you know, "Why did you lie? Why didn't you tell me that?" And he said, "Because when I tell you and then that lady comes, then I get hurt worse.
" - That lady was the social worker.
- Yes.
I assumed at that point.
So every time he was telling you every time the social worker would come, - he'd get hurt worse? - Yes.
How'd that make you feel? I didn't wanna call.
I didn't know what to do.
I don't know, I couldn't look at his face and, you know not be able to assure him, that that wasn't gonna happen again when I couldn't say that.
I was kinda stuck in a hard spot not knowing what the best thing to do was to protect him.
That day after school, it was hard, because I was thinking maybe it's better to just not call.
But I called.
The teacher calls and reports that he's come to school saying, he's been shot with a BB gun.
That isn't one of the times that's investigated by a medical professional.
The social worker doesn't see any you know, he says it was an accident.
So she walks away from that.
Even if it was an accident, he would have needed medical attention.
So there was no medical follow-up, even to the injuries that were acknowledged by the department.
I don't know how many times or who Jennifer Garcia called, and where the breakdown happened, I have no idea, but I will tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, if I knew a child was being abused like that, that child would not get outf of my classroom.
That child would not go home.
After the incident with the BB gun, there was a long absence.
And I just remember when he came in, I was like, "Ooh.
" That he was just there, still, you know, that he came back, but he looked horrible.
I mean, he had a blood his eye was totally red to where there was no white showing on that part of his eye.
His forehead had, like, skin that looked like it had peeled off.
He said, he fell off a bike, and that he had scuffed his head on the ground, and, you know, hit his eye.
And the nurse already knew he supposedly had pink eye.
The kids were, like, scared.
They were like, "Whoa, what happened to you?" I mean, he looked the worst I'd ever seen.
But he had been healing too, like, I knew he was out 13 days.
So I knew that that was the healing version of those injuries.
So I called and I left Stefanie Rodriguez a message and I just said, "You know, he said he fell off a bike and he looks horrible.
" I didn't even have to say more.
It was just, "He looked horrible.
" And I never got a call back.
I was mad.
And, like, frustrated.
Why is he still going home? Like why is no one taking him out? Why are they not, you know, taking his injury serious? Gabriel didn't seem angry with his mom.
Even at the very end when he looked like the worst I'd ever seen him.
We were working on a Mother's Day project, and I just asked him, "Do you want to you know, make the project?" And he was like, "Yeah, yeah.
" I was like, "Okay.
" So this was the Mother's Day project, we did, this is the card he made, you know, it says, "Open the door to see who loves you" and then, you know, his mom would open the door, and we put his picture in there.
And then he wrote some stuff inside.
He kind of filled out, you know, "my mom is special because," he said, "she's a loving mom and I love her because she's beautiful.
" "My mom has a pretty smile.
I like to make her smile by," and then he wrote, "and a pretty face.
" And then it says, "My mom is as pretty as a," and he put, "flower and heart.
" And then he wrote his name, "Signed, Gabriel.
" And then the date was May 7th of 2013.
That's What is that? That's two weeks before he died? Yeah.
And he made her these little coupons.
And this one says, "I will clean the dishes.
" "A time for me and you.
" Which, that's, like, kind of unique for him to come up with that.
And then this one says, "I will be good.
" There's always something about that being good.
Like, he was always trying to prove that he was good.
I took the pictures of him holding the MOM, with his face covered in bruises.
I didn't know what it was, actually, at that time.
I'd never seen injuries that looked like that before.
But he still took the picture, you know, still stood there, holding the letters, and even still, like, the last letter, I said, "Make a silly face," and he still made that silly face, even despite, you know, what he looked like, knowing he was making that for his mom.
I felt like, he wanted to do that because he you know, deep down, he really just wanted her to love him.
He was trying to make her happy.
And, um that was the last thing sitting on his desk, actually, was his Mother's Day project, when I found out he was dead.
You know, I mean, I cried and cried and I just think you're numb.
You don't know what to do or what to think.
Garcia told all of us to sit around her, and she had told us that Gabriel had passed away, and everybody just broke down.
That was my friend and It really caught me because it was his parent who took his life.
Not anybody else walking down the street, or driving in their car, or just a random person.
It was his parents.
It kinda hurts when you don't get to tell somebody "bye" and that's what I didn't do.
I didn't tell him bye or anything.
I was sad.
And I was I was hurt.
'Cause I just I just It I don't know.
It hurts my heart to see that a friend passed away over something stupid.
I felt like everybody that knew what was going on, nobody can say with a clear conscience, "We did everything we should and we feel good at the end of the day.
" I can't say that, you know, I have a lot of guilt.
To me, the social workers I'm upset.
Why didn't she see what I saw? Why didn't she believe him and know that that was not okay? I hope the social workers get whatever the max sentence they can get.
'Cause they have his death on their hands.
Her hands specifically.
I have four co-workers that are going to go to trial.
My feeling is that they are being sacrificial lambs, for everybody else.
Have you investigated it? Have you really gone in to the nuances of what really happened? Is this just something to make you look good and them look bad, or is this something that you really truly believe in? So, as long as you're involving humans in this process, you're gonna have mistakes.
Now, how serious are the mistakes? This was the most serious mistake that could have been made.
Can it be repaired No, it can never be repaired.
Can it be redeemed? No, it can never be redeemed.
These people have to live with this the rest of their life.

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