'The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez': Who is Isauro Aguirre and Where is He Now?

One of the most disturbing Netflix true crime shows, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, chronicles the months of torture and systemic failures of social care leading to the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez on May 24, 2013. Much of this torture, which included the boy being shot by a BB gun, getting locked in a cupboard, and being forced to eat cat feces, was perpetrated by Isauro Aguirre, the boyfriend of Gabriel Fernandez's mother Pearl Fernandez.

As revealed in the documentary, Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez met roughly two years before Gabriel Fernandez's death. Around that time, he worked as a driver and at a retirement home.

Coworker character testimony about Aguirre paints a very different picture than the one we get after learning of the barbaric way he treated Gabriel Fernandez. According to Oxygen.com, his former boss Susan Weisbarth was a witness for him in his trial, and said, "The residents always wanted him to take care of them. I mean, he was like a teddy bear, the residents adored him... So did the staff."

In October 2012, he started a new job as a security guard and around the same time Pearl Fernandez got custody of her son, meaning he came to live with Pearl and her two other children, Virginia and Ezequiel.

isauro aguirre the trials of gabriel fernandez
Isauro Aguirre was charged with the murder of Gabriel Fernandez, as seen in "The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez" Netflix

In a piece for The Atlantic, Journalist Garrett Therolf's (who appears in The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez) wrote signs of Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez's abuses were clear from early on. Therolf quotes one of his teachers, who he asked, "Is it normal for your mom to hit you with the part of the belt that has that metal thing on the end?"

By November, Gabriel Fernandez was turning up to school with cuts, bruises and chunks of hair missing, and his injuries only got worse as the months went on. KTLA5, reporting from the trial of Aguirre, noted prosecutors said that he hated Gabriel Fernandez because he thought the child was gay.

One of the ways Gabriel Fernandez would be punished for effeminacy was for his guardians to force him to go outside in female clothing, according to The AV Times. The article quotes Claudia Segoviano, a neighbor from across the stairwell to Aguirre and Fernandez's apartment, who said: "He was sad, you could tell, like nobody likes to be dressed as the opposite sex... I asked my brother, 'what happened to him?' and my little brother said that was a form of punishment."

Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez's abuse and torture of the boy came to a head on May 22, 2013, when the child stopped breathing after he was attacked with a BB gun, pepper spray, coat hangers, and a wooden baseball bat, according to The Atlantic. Gabriel Fernandez was declared brain dead and was taken off life support on May 24, 2013.

On May 23, before Gabriel Fernandez died, Aguirre was arrested for attempted murder, while Pearl Fernandez was arrested for felony child endangerment and child abuse. However, when he died, Aguirre found himself at the center of a murder trial.

At that trial, which took place in late 2017, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami called Aguirre "pure evil" and argued he deserved to be executed for his crimes—though he noted that this sentence, "doesn't even compare to what he did to Gabriel."

After the jury deliberated from Monday, December 11, 2017, to Wednesday, December 13, after saying on the Tuesday they were deadlocked, they eventually recommended the death penalty for Aguirre after convicting him of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of intentional murder by torture.

As of February 2020, Aguirre is currently on death row in California's San Quentin prison.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is streaming now on Netflix.