PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- On a chilly Saturday afternoon, family and community members gathered in Palmdale to celebrate the life of Gabriel Fernandez, the boy who was tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend, on what would've been his 18th birthday year.
This year, however, brought more agony as they comforted the family of another Southern California boy who met the same fate.
"These cases are emotional," said L.A. County Prosecutor Jonathan Hatami. "They affect everybody the entire community. I believe Gabriel is in heaven and he gets to see all the people that loved him, especially when he didn't get to see that when he was here on the planet."
Gabriel's birthday celebration comes we're learning about the devastating child abuse case of Anthony Avalos.
The 10-year-old was killed in 2018 in the Antelope Valley. He was allegedly tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend, who are both now on trial.
Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva are charged with one count each of murder and torture involving Anthony's death, along with two counts of child abuse involving the boy's half-siblings.
Anthony's half-brother, Rafael, and half-sister Destiny testified that they had been forced to undergo punishment, including kneeling on uncooked rice, wrestling each other and watching each other be disciplined in their Lancaster home, and that they saw Leiva repeatedly dropping Anthony on a bedroom floor shortly before his death.
Anthony and Gabriel's families are now forever linked by heartbreaking tragedies.
"We had to meet under these circumstances, so it's really hard, but luckily they brought us together and we get to be here to support everybody here," said Maricruz Avalos, Anthony's aunt.
Both brutal cases are igniting calls for justice and change, especially within Department of Children and Family Services, which had received numerous complaints about both cases.
Gabriel's family said their sweet little boy they loved will never be forgotten.
"Even though he's gone he still lives on in our hearts," said the boy's cousin Emily Carranza.