Isauro Aguirre, who killed and tortured his girlfriend's child because he thought the 8 year old might be gay, has been found guilty of first degree murder.
According to The LA Times, jurors deliberated for six hours before delivering the guilty verdict. A jury must now decide if Aguirre will be sentenced to death for his crimes. The child's mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, will be tried separately.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami and Gabriel’s father shared a hug following the announcement of the verdict.
“I’m a dad and, you know, he’s a dad,” Hatami said tearfully. “It’s just two dads, and two humans in the community, just sharing the fact that maybe there was some justice.”
Prosecutors had presented horrific evidence of the abuse that the child, Gabriel Fernandez, who was found with a cracked skull, three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Before his death, Fernandez was also forced to sleep in a cabinet while bound and gagged and made to consume human and cat feces.
Aguirre was not on drugs or mentally ill but was motivated by his hatred for the child, who he assumed was gay.
“This was intentional murder by torture,” Hatami told jurors.
Social workers who were involved in the case are now facing criminal charges as well. They had previously made six investigations into the situation but never removed the child from the home. Sheriff's deputies, who had visited the home, were also disciplined over their lack of intervention.
“The social workers had a chance. The school officials had a chance. The deputies had a chance,” Hatami had said to jurors. “Now it’s up to you…. What are you going to do?”
Deputy Public Defender Michael Sklar attempted to argue that Aguirre was guilty of second- (not first-) degree murder: “He was completely out of control," he said.
The case has inspired reforms in the county's handling of child abuse.
“The ultimate goal is that no child case should ever fall through any crack whatsoever,” said Sheriff’s Det. Tim O’Quinn. “And I think we’ve seen some extremely good changes as a result.”
The penalty phase of the trial begins November 27.
[Photo: Screenshot from WREG]