A California jury heard the unspeakable acts of torture and abuse 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez suffered at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend because they believed he was gay.
Isauro Aguirre, 37, is currently on trial for capital murder in the beating death of the child. His mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, will be tried separately.
If convicted, they could both face the death penalty.
Before the opening statements began, the bailiff even had to warn the court that this was a "highly emotional case," and asked that everyone keep their emotions in check or leave the room.
According to Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, Gabriel was happy and healthy before he moved from his grandparents' house to live with his mother and her boyfriend.
And after eight months of living with the couple, his body was battered and he was dead.
In fact, just two weeks after moving in with Aguirre and Fernandez, the boy asked his first-grade teacher if it was "normal to be hit with the metal part of the belt and to bleed?"
A month later, he came into school with his head shaved into a mohawk style but with noticeable chunks of hair missing, bloody scabs and a busted lip.
Gabriel often cried after school because he didn't want to go home.
According to the prosecution, the couple even texted about the torture and beatings they gave the boy.
In April, a welfare employment office called 911 and reported seeing Gabriel's injuries, which included "black eyes, bruises, burn marks, and ligature marks."
Gabriel was taken out of school for the second time just 13 days before he died. Inside his desk, his teacher found a note that read "I love you mom and Gabriel is a good boy."
At home, the prosecution said the boy was forced to sleep tied up and bound in a small cabinet with a sock gagging his mouth and a bandana over his face. On the night he died, May 22, 2013, Aguirre punched him repeatedly in the head and body, and slammed his head into a wall so hard that the wall was damaged.
Fernandez's two other children were at the home during the murder. The couple told police Gabriel "liked to hit himself, he was gay and he wanted to kill himself."
Evidence was found that Gabriel wrote several notes about wanting to take his own life.
Police found a wooden club, a collapsible metal baton, BB guns, pepper spray, steel-toed boots and a data cord that was used as a whip inside the home. In an autopsy report, cat litter and animal hair were found in the boy's stomach along with signs that he had been starved.
"This wasn’t about drugs. This wasn’t about mental health issues,” Hatami said. “(Aguirre) did it because he didn’t like him … he believed Gabriel was gay and to him that was a bad thing … he did it out of hatred of a little boy.”
According to a firefighter who testified in court said neither of his parents were seen crying when they responded to the call that the boy wasn't breathing.
Gabriel was taken to the hospital and declared brain dead. He was taken off life support two days later.
Aguirre and Fernandez were indicted in July 2014, and Aguirre's trial is expected to last at least six weeks.
Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships and everything in between. Every Wednesday at 10:20 p.m. you can ask her any and all questions about self-love, dating, and relationships LIVE on YourTango’s Facebook page. You can follow her on Instagram (@blackw00d) and Twitter (@emztweetz).