Gabriel Fernandez

The murder trial has begun in the case against a man accused of torturing and murdering the 8-year-old boy of his girlfriend whom he believed to be gay. The child, Gabriel Fernandez, was found with a skull fracture, shattered ribs, and severe burns by first responders at his home in a Los Angeles suburb in 2013. He died two days later.

After allegedly being gagged and bound in a cabinet inside of the family home, the hospital declared the child brain dead and removed him from life support two days later.

Isauro Aguirre allegedly tortured the boy over an 8-month span because he believed him to be gay. “This wasn’t about drugs. This wasn’t about mental health issues,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told a jury on Monday. He abused Fernandez, he said, “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.”

“The evidence will show that the defendant is nothing more than a bully,” he continued, “He was a security guard who intentionally tortured and abused a helpless and innocent little boy.” The district attorney shared harrowing and gruesome details of what the child endured at the hand’s of his mother Pearl Fernandez’s boyfriend, including starvation, being fed cat feces and his own vomit, and sleeping in closets.

Isauro Aguirre
Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty

The defendants argue that although Aguirre tortured Gabriel, his intention wasn’t to murder him. “Despite the horrific abuse, Isauro never intended for Gabriel to die,” defense attorney John Allan said. Hatami, however, showed the jury text messages between Aguirre and Pearl that suggest conspiracy and intent.

Paramedic James Cermak was the first witness to be called to the stand. He revealed that when he retrieved the boy’s body from his home, it “limp, lifeless.” He also shed light on the markings found on Fernandez including “strangulation marks around his neck … bite marks, and bruises head-to-toe.”

Four social workers who worked on the case are also facing charges for negligence and falsifying records pertaining to Fernandez’s case. PEOPLE confirmed arrest warrants were issued March 2016 for Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom, and Gregory Merritt.

Prosecutors alleged Rodriguez and Clement falsified reports that should have documented the alleged abuse that Gabriel was enduring at home. Supervisors Bom and Merritt “knew or should have known” those reports had been falsified.

“Social workers play a vital role in society. We entrust them to protect our children from harm,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “When their negligence is so great as to become criminal, young lives are put at risk.”

Aguirre’s trial is set to end in eight weeks. Fernandez’s mother’s case will be tried separately.