Jurors, students, friends gather to honor Gabriel Fernandez at Palmdale school

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- First graders sang out in tribute to 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez as jurors and other people connected to the child reunited in a private gathering Friday.

His school life at Summerwind Elementary School in Palmdale was so happy compared to his life of torture at home.

During the trial, his relatives listened and cried while the prosecutor and members of the jury learned in painful detail how Gabriel endured months of torture before dying of injuries inflicted by his mother and her boyfriend.

"Our hearts are with him. We will never forget him and hopefully he's shining down and sees we're all together for him," juror Kathryn Turk said.

The panel fulfilled a vow Friday to ensure that Gabriel and the safety of other children are not forgotten. A plaque, purchased by 19 jurors and alternates, is dedicated to Gabriel in a sunny courtyard under a tree.

"The one thing that stood out as a bright spot for him was the possibility that he would get to come to school the next day. So that's why we picked the school because this was quite possibly the happiest place on Earth for this kid," juror Meira Shourie said.

So who was there for Gabriel? His teacher, Jennifer Garcia, tried in vain to get social workers to intervene. What happened to Gabriel changed her life.

"I want to remember how strong and brave he was because I definitely know that he was stronger than me," she said.

Prosecutor Jon Hatami, who said he was once a victim of child abuse, said people need to report any suspicion of abuse.

"I just don't understand why there aren't more people out there fighting for children," he said.

Now they all look forward to spring, when the tree will blossom. Mrs. Garcia's students will plant flowers in the courtyard, too, as another way to remember Gabriel.

The hope there is that all children will find the safety and security they deserve.
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