Security guard called 911 about Palmdale boy abuse, was told case wasn't an emergency

ByVania Stuelp KABC logo
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Guard called 911 about Palmdale boy, was told it wasn't emergency
A security guard who saw Gabriel Fernandez's many injuries, including what appeared to be more than a dozen cigarette burns, said he called 911.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A security guard who saw Gabriel Fernandez's many injuries, including what appeared to be more than a dozen cigarette burns, said he called 911 - only to be told the situation was not an emergency.

Arturo Martinez was working as a security guard for a company contracted with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 2013.

Martinez testified on Tuesday, which was day 6 of the trial against Isauro Aguirre, the boyfriend of Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez.

Prosecutors allege that Aguirre and Fernandez abused and beat Gabriel to death. Gabriel's mother will be tried separately for his murder.

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On April 26, 2013, Martinez said he was working as a security guard at an office for the Department of Public Social Services in Palmdale. He told the jury Pearl Fernandez showed up to file public assistance paperwork. She was with her children: Gabriel, two other boys and a girl.

"I saw him sad, full of bruises, with cigarette burns on the back of his head, neck, lacerations," Martinez testified, saying he remembers seeing between 17 and 23 cigarette burns on the back of Gabriel's neck, behind the ears, describing some as old and some as new burn marks.

Martinez said he noticed Gabriel had bruising on the side of this head, around his nose, under his eyes, on the back of his head and on his wrist. The security guard testified he witnessed Gabriel massaging his wrists, and also noted Gabriel had ligature marks around his wrists.

"Looked as he had been tied," he said.

Martinez also testified that he saw lumps on Gabriel's head, behind his ears.

"His head did not look normal," Martinez said. "He had a lump behind the ears and in different parts of his head."

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He said he documented everything and, even though he wasn't required to, he called the police.

In court, the prosecutor played the 911 call Martinez made on April 26, 2013.

Martinez told the 911 dispatcher that he wanted to report a kid all bruised up with cigarette burns.

"You need to call the non-emergency number sir," the 911 dispatcher told Martinez.

"Based on what you saw, did you think that was an emergency?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," Martinez replied.

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He then placed a call to the sheriff's station in Palmdale. The call was played for the jury.

Martinez said a woman went to his office to pick up paperwork with four children.

"One of the boys had bruises, cuts and what appeared to be cigarette burns," Martinez said.

He estimated Gabriel to be 7 years old, and gave sheriff's officials Pearl Fernandez's name and address as well as his own.

Martinez told the jury Gabriel looked like he had been hit, hurt, bruised, not fed and needed to be rescued.

During cross examination, Martinez testified that Pearl Fernandez noticed others staring at Gabriel's wounds. That's when she told Gabriel to "go freaking sit down with your brothers and sister."

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Then, Martinez said he saw one of Gabriel's siblings tell him "mom's gonna get you."

He said Pearl Fernandez tried to block Martinez from looking at Gabriel as they were leaving the office.

"She was nervous. She observed me looking at him, and she didn't like that." Martinez said. "I was about to get up and ask what had happened to him, but at the point she was done and walked out, blocking me."

"You believed, on that day, that Gabriel needed to be saved?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," Martinez responded.

Dr. Donald C. Boger, a forensic radiologist who examined and analyzed Gabriel Fernandez's body, also testified on Tuesday.

He testified that there were multiple fractures on both sides of Gabriel's ribs. Some fractures were fresh while others were older and showed evidence of healing.

Boger said Gabriel had at least three fresh rib fractures and approximately nine healing rib fractures.

He also testified that there were fractures to the bones in Gabriel's arms.

Boger added there were multiple BB gun wounds in Gabriel's chest, pelvis and legs - most likely as result of repetitive trauma.

"It was happening again and again and again, and it was inflicted by somebody else on this child," Boger said.

Dr. James Ribe, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Gabriel's body, took the stand later in the day, giving graphic testimony on what he found during the procedure, which lasted for two days.

At the time of Gabriel's death, he was 49 inches in height and weighed only 59 pounds, Ribe said.

Gabriel's intestines had very little material, which Ribe indicated it was a result of him not eating. His glands were abnormally small and there was almost complete absence of body fat. "Essentially, zero fat," the doctor said. "This depletion indicated malnutrition."

Ribe observed swelling on the side of Gabriel's face along with bruising and 10 patches of traumatic alopecia, which indicated that Gabriel's hair had been pulled out in spots.

Gabriel's face had numerous wounds below the jawline and to the backs of both ears that could have been abrasions or burns, Ribe said. He found scrapes and abrasions on side of Gabriel's right eye, extensive abrasion on his left cheekbone area and wounds on the left side of his mouth.

Ribe found extensive traumatic soft tissue injury inside Gabriel's mouth. He said the top layer was completely torn from the bone on upper and lower lip, filled with pus and infected -- an injury caused by blunt force trauma.

Ribe said four of Gabriel's anterior teeth had been knocked out at recent time, probably a few days before his death.

The pathologist said he recovered eight BBs from inside Gabriel's body, one of which was lodged in his lung.

Gabriel's body had rib fractures and he had pneumonia in both lungs. Ribe also found two large, partially healed hematomas (lumps of blood) on his liver caused by blunt force trauma.

Ribe found a very large wound to the scalp, as if Gabriel's head had been rammed against the wall with force, the scalp getting crushed with the skull bone. He testified it was consistent with it happening the day Gabriel was rescued at home.

Gabriel also had subdural hematoma - bleeding inside the head caused by blunt force trauma. Ribe said the injury was consistent with about three days old, maybe more. "This is a fatal injury," Ribe testified.