Trial testimony continues in death of Gabriel Fernandez
City News Service | 10/26/2017, 4:35 p.m.
Eight BBs were recovered from the body of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who had numerous other injuries from his head to his feet, a senior deputy medical examiner testified this week in the murder trial of the live-in boyfriend of the child's mother.
Dr. James Ribe, who works for the county coroner's office, told the downtown Los Angeles jury hearing the case against Isauro Aguirre that one BB was retrieved from Gabriel Fernandez's lung and that seven other BBs were recovered from the boy during an autopsy conducted over two days.
The senior deputy medical examiner testified that it is unusual for an autopsy to take two days, noting that the eight BBs were recovered during the second day of his examination of the boy's body.
Aguirre, 37, is charged with murder, along with the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture involving the boy's May 2013 death.
The boy's mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, will be tried separately.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the two.
Ribe testified that the boy suffered a head injury that was caused by blunt force trauma, likely from being thrown or slammed against a hard surface.
The senior deputy medical examiner said he also documented other injuries stretching from the boy's head to the bottom of his feet, including about 10 patches of traumatic alopecia where his hair had been “torn out,” swelling to the left side of his face, four teeth knocked out and partially healed burn wounds to his feet. The boy had also suffered numerous rib fractures—some of which were very recent and others that were in the process of healing, the senior deputy medical examiner said.
Some of the injuries were inflicted within a period of days of the boy's death, while others could have been sustained weeks, months or years earlier, Ribe said.
The senior deputy medical examiner testified that he spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the BB had gotten into the inner part of the boy's right lung, and said he concluded that the only way would be through the boy's nose or mouth.
“All of these injuries were inflicted by a caregiver,” he said after being asked if he was able to determine the manner of the boy's death.
He said the child's injuries could not all have been self-inflicted, caused by falling off a bicycle or a series of accidental events, noting that the boy had not received any treatment for his earlier injuries.
The boy “probably hadn't been eating,” with his intestines showing “very little content,” his thymus gland “barely even there” and “almost a complete absence of body fat,” the senior deputy medical examiner testified.
“So, Gabriel wasn't being fed?” Deputy District Attorney Scott Yang asked.
“Correct,” Ribe responded.
When asked by defense attorney Michael Sklar if the boy's last series of injuries were consistent with an “explosion of violence,” Ribe responded,
“I think they are.”
One of Aguirre's attorneys, John Alan, told jurors during his opening statement last week that his client committed “unspeakable acts of abuse” against the boy before “exploding into a rage of anger” that the defense contends resulted in the boy's unintentional death.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told jurors in his opening statement that the boy was beaten and systematically tortured because Aguirre believed the youth was gay.
In other testimony Tuesday, a security guard who worked at a Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services office in Palmdale told jurors that he called 911 and a Los Angeles County sheriff's station to report injuries to the boy in an effort to save him about two weeks before he heard about the child's death.
Arturo Martinez told jurors that the boy was “sad” and “full of bruises,” along with cigarette burns, lacerations and a black eye.