By CBSLA Staff

PALMDALE (CBSLA) – The family of Gabriel Fernandez released butterflies nearly eight years after his death, caused by child abuse. Saturday would’ve been his 16th birthday.

“He had the biggest smile,” said Olivia Rubio, his cousin. “This is the way we need to celebrate Gabriel. We feel the love. Just the way Gabriel was loved.”

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His cousins organized a celebration at a memorial tree in Palmdale to remember a life cut short at the age of eight.

His mother is serving a life sentence and her ex-boyfriend is awaiting execution for Gabriel’s murder.

The gathering happened steps outside Gabriel’s apartment and where the merciless beatings took place which led to his death in May of 2013.

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Saturday for the first time, Gabriel’s family got to meet one of the paramedic/firefighters that answered the fatal call.

“It was emotional,” said Emily Carranza, a cousin. “It’s hard. But we thanked him.”

Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the detectives in Gabriel’s case, and the Sheriff himself attended the event.

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Family members also wore masks to honor Anthony Avalos and Noah Cuatro, two other victims of deadly child abuse cases in the Antelope Valley. Family members added they want to make sure protecting kids against child abuse is a priority during the pandemic.