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Death sentence for killer of Gabriel Fernandez

City News Service | 12/14/2017, midnight
A jury recommended this week that a Palmdale man be sentenced to death for the..

A jury recommended this week that a Palmdale man be sentenced to death for the torture-murder of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, who was repeatedly shot with a BB gun, beaten and forced to sleep in a small cabinet with his hands and feet bound and his mouth gagged.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for about seven hours over three days before recommending that Isauro Aguirre, 37, be put to death for the May 2013 killing of Gabriel Fernandez. The boy's mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, is awaiting trial and also faces a possible death sentence.

Sentencing for Aguirre, a former security guard, was set for March 8 2018.

The jury's recommendation came shortly after the panel heard a read-back of testimony by William Adams, a consultant who spent more than 26 years working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was defense's final witness.

In his testimony last Thursday, Adams told the jury he believed Aguirre was “more likely to be prey than predator” among the state prison population if he was sentenced to life without parole. But he acknowledged under questioning by the prosecutor that it was his personal opinion the defendant had committed an “evil” act.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli rejected the jury's request for a transcript of the attorneys' closing arguments or for a slide shown by Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami during his closing argument, noting that “nothing that the attorneys say is evidence.”

The judge offered jurors the chance to hear another 30-minute summation of their case from attorneys on both sides, but the jury passed on the offer.

In a note submitted late Monday, the jury asked what the outcome of the case would be if the panel is unable to reach a unanimous verdict. At a brief hearing Tuesday, the judge told the panel that the question was “a little bit premature,” noting that jurors had not spent very much time discussing the case.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel went to the family's home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in Palmdale on May 22, 2013, 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.

In addition to convicting Aguirre of murder, jurors found true the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture, making him eligible for capital punishment.

In his closing argument Monday, Hatami told jurors the death penalty is the “only appropriate and just punishment,” while one of Aguirre's attorneys, John Alan, pleaded for mercy for his client.

The prosecutor began his closing argument in the penalty phase by showing the jury autopsy photos of Gabriel's "head-to-toe'' injuries, which a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, a sheriff's detective and others working with child abuse victims had testified were the worst they had ever seen.

“There is nothing worse in our society than a grown man murdering and

torturing an innocent little boy,” Hatami told the panel.

Two former Los Angeles County social workers—Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement—and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt are awaiting trial on one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records involving the boy.