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What Would Have Been Gabriel Fernandez's 18th Birthday Marked By Community
The community of Palmdale, California will celebrate the life of Gabriel Fernandez, who was abused to death by his own family.
There will be a celebration this weekend for what should have been Gabriel Fernandez’s 18th birthday in the community where he was raised and, tragically, killed.
The event in Palmdale, California will celebrate the life of the child on Saturday at noon at the Gabriel Fernandez Memorial Site, where there's a mural for Gabriel. While Saturday would have marked his first step into adulthood, he didn’t even make it to age 9 due to events that shocked the nation.
Gabriel died in 2013 after enduring months of abuse by his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. During the time they had custody of him, they put out cigarettes on him, shot him in the face with a BB gun, made him eat cat litter and feces, and forced him to sleep in a locked cabinet, often while gagged and bound.
During those horrific months of torture, several people tried desperately to help Gabriel.
His teacher Jennifer Garcia called the Department of Children and Family Services multiple times to report the visible signs of abuse, ABC7 reported. Arturo Martinez, a security guard at the Department of Public Social Services in Palmdale, called 911 — risking his job — when he noticed Gabriel had sustained burn marks, bruises, lumps, and lacerations, according to a separate ABC7 report.
However, despite the outpouring of concern from community members, Gabriel continued living in an abusive household and was ultimately killed. The shocking case shed light on imperfections in the system and last year, Gabriel's Los Angeles County counselor Barbara Dixon was put on a four-year probation for failing to report his abuse.
"Gabriel was a beautiful little boy who was failed by so many, so it is always so important that we come together as a community and talk about Gabriel’s life, his tragic death and what we can do to make our society a better and safer place for our children," Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who has been an advocate for abused kids like Gabriel, told Oxygen.com this week. “The protection of children and their safety should always be the number one priority of government.”
“Gabriel’s birthday celebrations are also uplifting because I believe Gabriel is in heaven and we all get to show him the love I wish he would have known more of in his short life," Hatami added. "Happy 18th Birthday Gabrielito!”
He said that he thinks of Gabriel daily and noted that it’s even more difficult now as he is currently in the middle of the Anthony Avalos trial. The 10-year-old boy’s mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva are accused of abusing him to death in a similar manner in 2018. Dixon was also his counselor and was also punished for failing to report abuse in his case.
Barron and Leiva have pleaded not guilty in the case. Closing arguments are expected in that case on Wednesday.