Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger investigates the tragic death of an 8-year-old California boy who endured horrific abuse by his mother and her boyfriend, along with the fractured and complex systems that failed to protect him.
Cast: William Guirola, Wyatt Hinz
Jurors reach a verdict in Isauro Aguirre's trial. Pearl Fernandez takes a plea deal, and a court throws out charges against the social workers. A special commission is created to ensure that law enforcement, the DCFS and other groups work together. Unfortunately, inadequate resources still plague communities, and some children aren't receiving the help they desperately need.
Workers at the Department of Child and Family Services are interviewed about why, despite abuse reports, Gabriel wasn't removed from the home. Gabriel's siblings testify about the torture he endured, and an expert speaks about how data mining could be used to assess risk of future behavior.
A security guard testifies he saw evidence of abuse when Gabriel entered the Department of Public Social Services with his mother, but his reports were ignored. Conflict between the sheriff's department and the FBI emerges. A thriving "poverty industrial complex" contributes to abuse cases going unresolved.
Details of Pearl's background and personality come to light, and Gabriel's aunt, grandfather, teacher and biological father testify. In an unprecedented move, four social workers are charged with child abuse and failing to prevent Gabriel's death. Media attention surrounds the case.
Isauro Aguirre's trial begins; if convicted, he faces the death penalty. Firefighters and deputies take the stand, and a forensic radiologist testifies Gabriel was under severe physical and psychological stress. Los Angeles deputy district attorney Jonathan Hatami prosecutes the case, which holds personal significance for him.
In 2013, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez dies at a hospital in Los Angeles County. His injuries stem from months of abuse and torture, and his mother and her boyfriend are charged with murder. An investigation uncovers how the tragedy also resulted from systems and programs that failed to protect him.