Isauro Aguirre is currently on death row in San Quentin State Prison in California. He was convicted of the first-degree murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez with the added circumstance of intentional murder by torture. He received the death sentence and was admitted to San Quentin on June 13, 2018.
Gabriel Fernandez was killed on May 24, 2013 after lying in the hospital, brain dead, for two days. Isauro Aguirre was dating and living with Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and both were charged with torturing and abusing the child for months until he eventually died of his injuries. The brutal case is the subject of a new Netflix docu-series, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”
During Aguirre’s trial, the defense team painted the 39-year-old in a completely different light than the details of the case would suggest.
Here’s what you need to know about Isauro Aguirre:
1. The Prosecution Said Aguirre Was “Evil” & Enjoyed Torturing Gabriel Fernandez
During the trial, the prosecution painted a picture that was disturbing and distressing in its graphic nature. Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said that Aguirre was “evil” and “liked torturing” Gabriel, doing so repeatedly in the months before his death because he thought the 8-year-old was gay, NBC reported.
The LA Times received transcripts of the grand jury testimony for the case and reported that Hatami argued that Aguirre “reveled in his brutalization, forcing Gabriel to eat cat feces and his own vomit.” He continued, “The boy slept in a small cabinet, with his ankles handcuffed, his hands bound and his mouth gagged with a sock.”
2. He Was Found Guilty & Sentenced to Death in the Murder & Torture of Gabriel Fernandez
Aguirre decided to take his case to trial and was found guilty, receiving the death sentence. When the death sentence was passed down, Aguirre’s attorney Deputy Public Defender Michael Sklar said that it was “grossly disproportionate” with his culpability, according to the LA Times.
He is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, according to California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He is now 39 years old and was admitted on June 13, 2018. His status is listed as condemned.
As ABC7 reported, Aguirre could spend many years on death row because there are currently no executions going ahead. Due to legal disputes in California over the death penalty, executions are currently stalled and the most recent ones were for inmates who had been sentenced over two decades ago.
3. His Sister Said He Was “Caring & Helpful” During Trial
During the sentencing hearing, the defense team worked to show Aguirre’s innocent childhood in hopes to spare him the death penalty. ABC7 reported that the jury was shown photos of Aguirre as a baby and as a young child, holding his younger sister.
His lawyer argued that Aguirre had no prior criminal history and suggested that he was changed by Pearl Fernandez. Aguirre’s sister Elizabeth testified in his case, with ABC reporting that she said “Aguirre had been a caring and helpful older brother in a hard-working family.” She said he was an altar boy when he was younger and had gone to church regularly. She added that she didn’t remember him ever getting physically disciplined as a child.
When Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami asked Elizabeth Aguirre if she believed her brother was responsible for Gabriel’s death, she said no, AV Times reported during the trial. “We don’t believe it,” she said, referring to her whole family.
4. He Previously Worked as a Caregiver in a Retirement Facility & as a Security Guard
His attorney during the trial suggested that Aguirre might have a learning disability, saying he had intellectual difficulties, repeated two grades, and eventually dropped out of school. The LA Times reported that for most of the trial, Aguirre stared at the table with a scowl on his face.
The court heard that he worked at an assisted-living facility during his 20s as a caregiver and a driver. Susan Weisbarth, his former boss at this facility, testified during Aguirre’s sentencing trial that “he was quiet, he was just a down to earth nice person, always willing to help,” she said to producers of “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”
After this job, he started working in October 2012 as a security guard for AVL Private Security, according to his sister’s testimony. This company assigned him to work at the Vallarta Market in Palmdale.
The defense also had two of Aguirre’s former girlfriends testify that he was “helpful and respectful,” ABC7 reported, although he had difficulties with their break-up.
5. He Called Pearl Fernandez His Wife & Referred to Her Children as His Kids
During the trial, and shown during the Netflix docu-series, audio was played of Isauro Aguirre’s interrogation on May 23, 2013 with Detective Eliott Uribe. In this interview, the detective asked what Gabriel had done to upset him, and Aguirre responded: “He told my wife, my fiancee, you know what, why you with him if he’s always hurting you?”
On the audio of the 911 call played during the trial, Aguirre was heard saying “My son is eight years old.” Then he continued “He was wrestling with my other son.” In another portion of the audio, he said: “My other son called me, called me and my wife, and he said he’s unconscious.”
It is unclear how long Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez had been dating, but the prosecutors on the case told producers of the Netflix show that they thought the two had met about one and a half to two years before Gabriel’s death.