Mother of tortured Palmdale boy pleads guilty to murder

- The mother of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was routinely beaten, starved, forced to sleep in a closet and tortured until his 2013 death pleaded guilty Thursday to a murder charge.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, 34-year-old Pearl Sinthia Fernandez is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of her son, Gabriel. She pleaded guilty to first-
degree murder and admitted a special circumstance allegation of murder involving torture.

Fernandez's boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 37, was convicted last year of the same charge and special circumstance allegation, and jurors recommended that he be sentenced to death. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 8.

Sentencing for Fernandez was set for June 7.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel went to the family's home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in Palmdale on May 22, 2013, in response to a call that Gabriel was not breathing. He was declared brain-dead that day and taken off life support two days later.

During Aguirre's trial, prosecutors told jurors that Gabriel Fernandez was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, forced to eat cat feces and sleep while gagged and bound inside a small cabinet.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami called Aguirre an ``evil'' man who ``liked torturing'' the boy and did so systematically in the months leading up to the child's death. Aguirre hated Gabriel because he thought the boy was gay, according to the prosecutor.

Aguirre's attorney, Michael Sklar, contended that Fernandez was the one who hit the boy with a belt, shot him with a BB gun and was responsible for much of the abuse prior to his death.

The boy's death and the arrests of Fernandez and Aguirre led to an outcry over the handling of the case by Los Angeles County social workers, who had multiple contacts with the family. A subsequent investigation led to criminal charges being filed against two former social workers -- Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia Clement -- and their supervisors, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt. They are awaiting trial on one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records involving the boy.

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