A California teen testified in court on Wednesday about the constant abuse he claims his 8-year-old brother suffered at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, resulting in the younger boy’s death, People magazine reported.
The boy, Gabriel Fernandez died as a result of an eight-month-long period of abuse by his mother Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, according to prosecutors. The couple were “conspiring together to deceive everyone in order to torture [him] to death” after the boy moved in with them in 2012, prosecutors said to NBC Los Angeles.
Aguirre, 37, and Fernandez, 34, have both been charged with murder in the boy’s death, and both pleaded not guilty. Gabriel’s brother, Ezequiel, testified in Aguirre’s case while Fernandez’s trial is still pending.
Ezequiel claimed that Gabriel was beaten every day and forced to eat feces and cat litter, in part because Aguirre believed Gabriel was gay.
Gabriel was also gagged, bound, and kept in a small locked cabinet he called the “box” for hours at a time, Ezequiel claimed. The boy was allegedly shot repeatedly with a BB gun, pepper-sprayed in the face, and beaten with a belt and a metal hanger.
Aguirre and his mother would force Gabriel to eat rotten food, Ezequiel claimed, and when he threw up, they would make him consume his own vomit.
The teen was 12 at the time of Gabriel’s death, and he said he was threatened with abuse if he told social workers about the boy’s abuse.
Even Aguirre’s attorney, John Alan, said that his client is “guilty of murder” and abuse but should not face the allegation of torture.
Aguirre “never intended for Gabriel to die” while administering the boy’s final, fatal beating. When paramedics arrived at his home on May 22, 2013, they found him with a cracked skull, shattered ribs, severe burns, and BB pellets buried under his flesh.
Gabriel was taken off life support two days later after being declared brain dead.
Several social workers also faced charges after Gabriel’s death, and multiple L.A. sheriff’s deputies were also disciplined for not noticing signs of abuse at Gabriel’s home.