Dennis Shepard's Full Statement
Gabriel Fernandez was an abused child; one day, his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, discovered him playing with dolls and sent him to school the next day wearing a dress. That was the least of it; Gabriel; was regularly beaten, with a baseball bat — several of his teeth were knocked out one time; he was shot with a BB gun in the groin; he was doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit, locked in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth and was whipped with a belt.
All because his mother and her boyfriend thought he was gay.
One particularly bad day, Gabriel was taken to his room by his mother while Isauro followed with a baseball bat. One of his siblings later said you could hear Gabriel screaming, and then suddenly it stopped.
His mother called 911 that day, May 22, 2013, to report that Gabriel was not breathing, and when paramedics arrived they found Gabriel in his bedroom naked, with a cracked skull, several broken ribs, and BB pellets in his lung and groin.
Gabriel Fernandez died two days later.
Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez were charged with capital murder shortly thereafter, though now Pearl — I’ll stop calling her Gabriel’s mother because mother’s shouldn’t do that to their children — and Aguirre are expected to take a plea deal in the case to avoid the death penalty; they would received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Now, some may say that Fernandez and Isauro deserve to die for what they did, but I beg to differ. I want them locked up, without the possibility of parole, with no chance at appeals, for the rest of their lives; I want them to wake up each and every day for the next several decades knowing they will never be free again for what they did to an innocent child.
I’ve always been anti-death penalty because we know it’s not a deterrent to crime; if it was, we’d have no more murders, because everyone would know they’d be put to death for that crime. No, people still kill people, and little boys, and their own children, without even thinking about the death penalty, so why give it to them? Punish them for life for what they’ve done.
I remember at the sentencing of Aaron McKinney for the murder of Matthew Sheppard, when Dennis Shepard said this:
“I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt. Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die. Mr. McKinney, I’m going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or the Fourth of July, remember that Matt isn’t. Every time that you wake up in that prison cell, remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. Every time that you see your cell mate, remember that you had a choice, and now you are living that choice. You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”
That’s what I wish for Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez; that, for me, would be a greater punishment then a few minutes of pain followed by nothingness. Live every single day knowing that you are where you are because of whom you are and what you did.
But Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre aren’t the only guilty parties.
It has come to light, following Gabriel’s’ death, that social workers investigated the home several times and left Gabriel there; social workers had responded to multiple reports of abuse from both Gabriel Fernandez's teachers and his grandfather, but they determined that Gabriel was not at risk. It has been revealed that eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez wrote a suicide note but since the note offered no “specific” plan for how he would take his own life, social workers did nothing; nothing. Teachers at his school saw him come to class beaten and bruised and did nothing.
In my mind, they are just as guilty. They deserve to lose their jobs; they deserve to be banned, for life, from any kind of social work, from any kind of work that would involve them protecting a child.
To me they are as culpable as Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre; they may not have swung the bat, they make not have shot that BB gun, but when it came to protecting Gabriel they all sat on their hands.
Now, sure, social work is hard, the system doesn’t work many time; social workers have huge caseloads. But when a child, a child, writes a suicide note and nothing is done about it”? When a child is bruised and beaten and nothing is done about it? When you are called over and over and over again to investigate reports of abuse and nothing is done about it?
UPDATE: Isauro Aguirre has not agreed to the deal that calls for life in prison without the possibility of parole and no appeals; now, both he and Pearl Fernandez have until a December 3 court hearing to accept the deal or not and go to trial on murder charges.
As I said, I hope whether they accept the deal or don’t that they aren’t given the easy out of a death sentence, and years and years of appeals paid for by California taxpayers. I hope they get life, with no parole and no appeals.
I hope they rot in jail until the day they die and think about Gabriel every single day.