An 8-year-old boy who was tortured to death had asked the teacher if it was okay for 'your mom to hit you with a belt.'
Gabriel Fernandez was only 8-years-old when he died. He was a first-grader who loved his mom and only wanted her to reciprocate the love he had for her.
However, as luck would have it, his mom and her boyfriend tortured him to death. The very people that were supposed to protect and care for him failed to do so.
A recent Netflix documentary, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, looks at the tragic case and delves into what exactly happened to the little boy.
The film features a heartbreaking interview with Gabriel's teacher, who revealed some of the horrifying questions the boy had asked her.
When Gabriel was born, his mom Pearl Fernandez gave him up. She sent him to live with his grandmother.
However, eight years later, when Gabriel was around 8, Pearl got custody of him. And Gabriel later moved in with his mother and her boyfriend.
That's when his mom started torturing him.
His mom would beat and starve him and later force him to eat rotten spinach, cat feces, and even his own vomit.
As a result, Gabriel would often show up in school with bruises, scratches, a busted lip, a swollen face, among other injuries.
His school teacher, Jennifer Garcia, alerted social workers about the boy's wellbeing.
In an interview, Jennifer revealed that a few days before the boy's death, he had asked her some very alarming questions that led her to call social services.
That was just a couple of weeks since Gabriel joined her class.
In of the questions, Garcia asked, 'Is it normal for moms to hit their kids?' The boy then asked her if it was normal for a parent to hit their child with a belt buckle.
"The first incident when I became aware that something wasn't normal was when he started asking a couple of questions. He asked, 'Is it normal for your mum to hit you with a belt?' And then he said, 'Is it normal to bleed?'"
"Right there, I knew I was going to call the hotline that day, and that's what I did."
Additional abuse came to light after the mom shot Gabriel with a BB gun in the face. He was off school for a long time, and when he came back, he had a scab on his forehead, the teacher revealed.
Despite having a caseworker, Gabriel's abuse continued.
Care workers visited Gabriel's home many times but never found enough evidence to prompt them to remove the child from the house.
One day, however, the mom called 911 to report that Gabriel couldn't breathe after he slipped and hit his head.
Responding paramedics found Gabriel had suffered broken ribs, a cracked skull, and pellets from a BB gun lodged in his skin.
They rushed the boy to hospital, where doctors declared him 'brain dead.' He died two days later.
Police arrested his mother, where she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. She received life in prison.
On the other hand, her boyfriend pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, including intentional murder by torture.
The court sentenced him to the death penalty.