REVIEW: ‘The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez’ offers horrifying look at real-world issue

“Horrendous, inhumane and nothing short of evil,” are some of the words that Judge George G. Lomeli used to describe the crime against Gabriel Fernandez. 

“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” is a six-part true crime documentary series on Netflix that follows and brought to light the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who was severely abused and tortured by his mother and her boyfriend back in May 2013. 

Moreover, with the use of interviews from his teacher and his relatives, the series indirectly mentions that his death could have been avoidable. This documentary accuses the social workers for his death. 

It was hard not to cry. I watched as a boy jumped from house to house being showered in love and then ultimately ended up in-house where he was forced to eat cat litter and spend his days being gagged and locked in a small cubby.  

Additionally, the series does a tremendous job on focusing on the majority of the actual trial of the case. It showcases the mother Pearl who chose to plead guilty to as part of a deal that would send her to prison without the possibility of parole, but would spare her the death penalty. Watching her reaction was indescribable. I watched as a mother read her emotions and pleaded I’m sorry off a piece of paper without any expression. 

Likewise, this series was difficult to watch as a whole. It’s hard to grasp the concept that a mother could ever do that to a child and feel no remorse. That being said, the horrors of this crime is what kept me pressing play again and again.

 As the series delves deeper, photos are released that show a smiling 8-year-old, but his bruises tell another story. I finished until the end because while it starts with a trial, I wanted justice for the boy who I had never met before. I wanted justice for a boy who only wanted his mother to love him back. I wanted justice for a boy who enjoyed spending his time in the second grade. 

However, his case is not the only one where the system had failed him.

In the United States, more than four children die from child abuse and neglect on a daily basis, and 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the United States.

AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, Illinois was only five years old when he was murdered in April 2019 by his parents. His body was found in a shallow grave less than seven miles away from his house. 

Moreover, just like in Gabriel Fernandez’s case, the DCFS failed to step in and remove AJ from his abusive parents. The DCFS missed signs of trouble despite repeated hotline calls and police reports that documented filthy living conditions, substance abuse, domestic violence and suspicious bruises.

Furthermore, in both of these cases their deaths could have been avoidable if the DCFS did the necessary for removing both of these children from their abusive homes. For reasons still unknown, their cases managers did not follow up despite having phone calls and repeated signs of abuse being presented to them. 

“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” was a heartbreaking series that highlighted the case of a boy who did not deserve to die the way he did. Not to mention, this series highlights the overall incompetence of DCFS and their inadequacy to get involved and remove him from his abusive parents, being fully aware of what was happening behind closed doors. This series pulled at one’s heartstrings like no other true crime docucrime series has before.