On May 24, 2013, Gabriel Fernandez was brutally murdered by his mother and her boyfriend in a shocking case of torture and abuse. The 8-year-old boy died of his injuries in hospital after months of suffering at their hands. In 2018, Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, were both convicted of first-degree murder with a special circumstance of intentional murder by torture.
The case is now being raised again with the release of Netflix’s new six-part documentary series “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.” The details of this case are difficult to hear about, and this may be Netflix’s most gruesome true crime show to date.
A lot of people watching the show may be wondering who Gabriel Fernandez’s biological father was and his response to the case.
Here’s what you need to know about Arnold Contreras, Gabriel Fernandez’s father:
1. He Was In Prison During His Son Gabriel’s Torture and Murder
Arnold Contreras has been in and out of prison for years and was actually in prison when Gabriel died. NBC Los Angeles reported that during Aguirre’s sentencing trial, Contreras shared that he was in jail in Riverside County in 2013, when he found out that his son was on life support after being gravely beaten. The father shared how he experienced feelings of guilt and helplessness. He said, “I should have been there,” and that he was struggling to express his feelings when he heard the news from the prison chaplain.
According to the State of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Arnold Contreras is listed as being incarcerated in Calipatria State Prison for a nonviolent offense. It’s unclear what the charge is, but Contreras was admitted on February 11, 2019 and became eligible for parole June 2019.
2. He Testified During Isauro Aguirre’s Sentencing Trial
Contreras, who is sometimes referred to as “Arnaldo Jose Contreras,” took the stand in 2017 during the sentencing trial of Isauro Aguirre, who had already been convicted of murder. The trial was to determine the penalty for Aguirre, either life in prison or the death sentence.
During the trial, Contreras spoke fondly and emotionally about his son. He said his son was an “energetic young man who loved to run and play,” NBC Los Angeles reported from the courtroom. Jurors watched as prosecutors showed pictures of Contreras with his son, and Contreras said he was loving and kind, and “liked to play cops and robbers” in the backyard.
Contreras also said that he did not want his son to live with Pearl Fernandez and Aguirre. He testified that Pearl Fernandez had never been affectionate with the boy. Contreras said that it was his understanding that Gabriel’s maternal grandparents would be looking after his son, but the plan changed when Fernandez and Aguirre “took him away,” NBC Los Angeles reported during the trial.
He testified that he still has trouble sleeping because of his son’s brutal death, and his life won’t be the same again. The below video is the reporting of ABC7 on Contreras’ testimony, including audio of his testimony:
3. He Filed a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Along With Other Family Members
Media reported that on July 30, 2014, Arnold Contreras, along with a handful of other family members, filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The plaintiffs were Arnold Contreras, Gabriel’s three siblings, and Gabriel’s paternal grandparents. The lawsuit was against the public school district, three different county departments and Pearl Fernandez and Aguirre.
The lawsuit states that Gabriel was allowed to remain in Fernandez and Aguirre’s custody despite over 60 complaints of abuse being filed against the pair. The plaintiffs argue that these complaints were either not investigated at all or to their full extent. They also say that the Department of Public Social Services worker was knowledgeable about the abuse but did not report it because he was interested in going on a date with Fernandez, according to VVNG News. The status of this lawsuit is unclear at this time.
This lawsuit is separate from another wrongful death lawsuit filed, this one in 2013 by Gabriel’s maternal grandparents. According to NBC Los Angeles, Robert and Sandra Fernandez filed a lawsuit saying that Gabriel was illegally removed from their home, where he lived most of his life, into his mother’s custody despite over 60 reports of abuse. A number of agencies were named as the defendants in the lawsuit, including the school district, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Public Social Services, and specific social workers.
4. He Has Some Pictures of Gabriel on His Facebook
Arnold Contreras has pictures of Gabriel and his other children on his Facebook, showing them hanging out and enjoying each others’ company. In every picture, Gabriel is shown widely smiling and appearing happy.
Many of the comments share their sadness at Gabriel’s passing and express their condolences.
The profile indicates that Arnold Contreras is single and from Pacoima, California. In his public settings, he has not been active on the platform since 2017, and his linked Instagram account is no longer available.
5. According to Facebook, He Works in a Tattoo & Piercing Shop
His Facebook shows a lot of photos of Contreras working in a tattoo and piercing shop, with photos of piercing discounts and artwork that he’s done showing up prominently on his page.
He also has a Pinterest page which highlights his interest in tattoo work. It’s unclear if he is still working in this capacity at this time.