Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic content some readers may find disturbing. 

When 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died in 2013, his body bore the signs of horrific abuse allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

On May 22, 2013, Los Angeles paramedics were called for a report of a little boy who wasn’t breathing. Pearl Fernandez claimed her son fell and hit his head on a dresser. When paramedics arrived, they discovered Gabriel naked in a bedroom and not breathing. He had a “cracked skull, three broken ribs, and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Gabriel was declared brain dead and taken off life support two days later. Pearl Fernandez, 34, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 37, now stand accused of his murder with special circumstances of torture.

As CBSLA reports, the details surrounding the gruesome torture leading up to Gabriel’s death in 2013 shed light on the county’s broken child welfare system. The case resulted in separate charges against two former county social workers and their supervisors for child abuse and allegedly falsifying records.

During the trial for Aguirre currently underway in Los Angeles, Gabriel’s brother, Ezequiel, testified to the extent of the alleged abuse. According to WABC, the presiding judge was forced to call a recess because the extremely graphic nature of the testimony had the courtroom in distress.

As “Inside Edition” reports, prosecutors have alleged Aguirre was motivated to kill Gabriel because he believed the 8-year-old boy was gay. Prosecutor Jon Hatami reportedly told the court Aguirre forced Gabriel to go to school in pink clothes, and Ezequiel recalled for the court that Aguirre would call Gabriel “gay” while inflicting the abuse, adding that his brother would be “punished” for playing with dolls.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Hatami told the court:

“This wasn’t about drugs. This wasn’t about mental health issues. (Aguirre) did it because he didn’t like him … he believed Gabriel was gay and to him that was a bad thing … he did it out of hatred of a little boy.”

Hatami contended Fernandez and Aguirre told police Gabriel “liked to hit himself, he was gay and he wanted to kill himself.” Hatami alleged the defendants tried to hide the abuse with forged doctor’s notes and lied to the authorities. Aguirre’s defense has claimed the man never intended for the boy to die.

Fernandez and Aguirre have both pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder with special circumstances of torture, reports the Los Angeles Times. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. Fernandez will be tried for her son’s alleged murder separately.

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