Testimony continued this week in the murder trial of Isauro Aguirre, the California man accused of torturing and murdering Gabriel Fernandez, his girlfriend’s 8-year-old son, allegedly because he believed the boy was gay.
On Thursday, Jennifer Garcia, who was Gabriel’s first-grade teacher, took the witness stand and told the court the boy had once confided in her, allegedly telling her, “Sometimes, my mom makes me bleed,” reports NBC Los Angeles.
Gabriel died in 2013 from a skull fracture, shattered ribs and severe burns. Burrowed into his skin were BB pellets; one was also found in his lung, according to local ABC affiliate KABC-TV. Aguirre, 37, and the boy’s 34-year-old mother, Pearl Fernandez, have both pleaded not guilty to his murder.
The mother’s trial is pending. Both defendants face a possible death sentence.
Two days after he was found unresponsive by emergency medical technicians inside his Los Angeles home, Gabriel died.
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Gabriel’s teacher said Thursday it was obvious to her — as well as other school staffers — the boy was allegedly living in an abusive home. ABC reports Garcia testified that Gabriel was absent often, and frequently came into class with bruises.
Garcia testified that in late 2012, Gabriel allegedly told her his mother had beaten him with a belt that had a metal buckle. She called California’s Department of Children and Family Services, NBC reports. Jurors were played a recording of the call that initiated the agency’s investigation into the alleged abuse.
“‘Sometimes, my mom makes me bleed’,” Garcia quoted the boy as telling her. “And I say, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Well, on my bottom.'”
NBC reports that Garcia also told the court she once addressed with Gabriel about bruises she noticed on his face. Initially, he lied, telling her he had had a bad fall. When pressed, the boy allegedly told her his mother had fired a BB gun at his face.
“I asked him, ‘Why did you lie? Why didn’t you tell me?’ And he said, ‘Because when I tell you, and that lady comes, I get hurt worse,'” Garcia said, adding it was apparent the child was referring to a social worker.
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She also talked about Gabriel’s embarrassment at being sent to school in girl’s clothes. NBC reports Garcia said she wondered if it was some kind of a “sick game” by Aguirre and Fernandez.
“It was almost like they were seeing how far they would go,” Garcia said from the stand.
After the boy died, Garcia said she found a note he had written in the desk at school. It read, according to reports: “I love you, Mom. Gabriel is a good boy.”
PEOPLE was unable to reach the attorneys representing Aguirre and Fernandez for comment Friday.