LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Jurors held their first day of deliberations Tuesday in the trial of a 37-year-old security guard charged, along with his girlfriend, with the torture-murder of her 8-year-old son in their Palmdale home.
The jurors went home Tuesday afternoon without reaching a verdict. They will resume deliberations Wednesday.
A prosecutor Monday called the defendant an “evil” man who “liked torturing” the youngster and did so systematically in the months leading up to the child’s death. Isauro Aguirre, according to the prosecution, hated Gabriel Fernandez because he thought he was gay.
An attorney for Isauro Aguirre acknowledged Monday that his client killed Gabriel in May 2013 but told jurors that the defendant “acted in a rage of anger followed by an explosion of violence” and not with the deliberation and premeditation required for a verdict of first-degree murder.
Aguirre also faces a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him and his 34-year-old girlfriend, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, who will be tried separately for her son’s killing.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were called to the family’s home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in Palmdale in response to a call that Gabriel was not breathing. He was declared brain-dead that day, then taken off life support two days later.
Aguirre and the boy’s mother have remained jailed without bail since being charged in May 2013 with the boy’s death. The two were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury.
Two former Los Angeles County social workers — Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement — and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year with one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the case.
In his closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said in the months leading up to the boy’s death, he was “being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten … he was belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out. He was tied up every night in a box … Gabriel was dying.”
He alleged that the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defendant punched and kicked Gabriel hard enough to dent the walls of the family’s apartment and leave the boy unconscious, then — with help from the boy’s mother — hid some of the child’s bloody clothing and moved a picture to cover up one of the biggest indentations before calling 911.
“There’s no evidence that he was going to save Gabriel,” Hatami said, telling jurors that the defendant lied to the 911 dispatcher and paramedics who arrived on the scene.
The defense contends that Aguirre never meant to kill the child, but Hatami sought to undercut that claim, telling jurors in his summation of the case that Aguirre hated the boy. The couple only took him from his maternal grandparents so that they could collect welfare payments for his care, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Michael Sklar began his summation by telling jurors that “the evidence in this case requires you to find (Aguirre) guilty of (second-degree) murder, not first-degree murder.”
Sklar acknowledged “unspeakable acts of abuse over a period of time” by his client, but urged the panel as a matter of law to focus only on the evening of May 22, 2013, when Aguirre and Fernandez allegedly gave Gabriel the beating that caused his death.
The attorney also alleged that Gabriel’s mother was the one who hit the boy with a belt, shot him with a BB gun, forced him to eat cat feces and was responsible for much of the abuse prior to his death.
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