“Worst Mother in the World” and Boyfriend Take Plea Deal For Torture Murder of 8 Year Old Son They Feared was “Gay”
Palmdale, California – The mother of an eight-year-old son she despised for being “gay,” and her live-in boyfriend have pled guilty to first degree murder and torture under special circumstances in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Pearl Fernandez and her sometime lover, Isauro Aguirre, took life in prison without hope of parole, and agreed to waive any appeal to their sentence in the horrific case of young Gabriel Fernandez. Paramedics were called to the couple’s apartment on May 22, 2013 because Gabriel had stopped breathing. He died two days later. According to court testimony by Gabriel’s older sibling Ezequiel, an eye witness to the repeated beatings and torture inflicted on his younger brother, Pearl Fernandez had beaten her child into unconsciousness, and then fearful of discovery, ordered her older child to fabricate a story about an accident in the Palmdale apartment so the adults could escape prosecution for his murder. The paramedics found Gabriel naked, with cracked ribs, burns, and BB shot in his lung and in his groin area. As quoted in the Antelope Valley Press, Paramedic James Cermak said, “It was like sensory overload. There was burn marks, there was BB holes, bruises in various stages of healing, [it] looked like his ankles were broken. It was like every inch of this boy had been abused.” Cermak added, “We noticed that he had bruising all over his body, he had strangulation marks around his neck, and looked like his teeth had been knocked out.” When Cermak asked Pearl Fernandez about the situation “she became very defensive,” he said, and blamed the unconscious boy for fighting with his brother and being “a dirty boy.” According to NBC Los Angeles, the couple were arrested the day following Gabriel’s discovery for capital murder and torture. Though they both entered a plea of not guilty, a Grand Jury indicted them both in August for one of the most horrendous cases of child abuse and homophobia in Southern California history.
Testimony earlier this year established that Pearl Fernandez and her then-boyfriend Isauro Aguirre locked the boy in a dark closet for hours at a time, stuffed socks in his mouth to prevent him from crying out, repeatedly beat him, psychologically harmed him, and on at least one occasion forced him to eat cat feces and his own vomit as punishment for playing with dolls and acting “gay.” They whipped Gabriel with the metal end of a leather belt for a period of at least eight months, hit him with a bat, knocked his teeth out with a club, and tortured the boy with pepper spray. Though Gabriel was being overseen by the Department of Children and Family Services, at least four social workers who missed or ignored the signs of repeated abuse were dismissed from service in the public uproar over the case. After a total of no fewer than seven reports of suspected child abuse from sources including Gabriel’s teacher, the social workers did not investigate the allegations thoroughly enough to remove the boy from what amounted to a torture chamber of horrors. A blue-ribbon panel formed in the fallout from the case issued a scorching report mandating changes in the way at risk children are overseen in Los Angeles County. Gabriel’s maternal grandmother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the DCFS.
While there is plenty of blame to go around in the horrific torture murder of the eight-year-old, the fact of the active savagery of a mother, deemed otherwise sane, against her own child for whatever reason prompted Gay Star News to dub Pearl Fernandez “The Worst Mother in the World.” According to the Antelope Valley Press, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Beck testified in court that on the night of Gabriel’s discovery, Pearl expressed little or no concern for her child. When prosecutors asked Deputy Beck if she showed concern for anything, he said, “Her cats.” The depth of hatred for LGBTQ people shown by the punishment rained down on Gabriel by Aguirre and Fernandez is hard to fathom. For allegedly playing with dolls, they humiliated him by forcing him to wear girls’ clothing, ridiculed him in front of his siblings, and tortured him beyond belief. Apparently, these two adults believed that blaming an eight-year-old child for being “gay” somehow mitigated and justified what they did to him. It also betokens that his own mother would rather have a dead son than a gay one.
Now, according to an organization posting on Facebook as “Gabriel’s Justice,” Fernandez and Aguirre’s guilty plea and the life-without-parole sentence finally brings some sense of closure to this outrageous case. For the advocates for Gabriel, there was never a doubt that the couple would be found guilty of this heinous crime, for putting Gabriel through such hell for so many months of his young life. The group expressed relief that years of appeals could now be avoided. Now, the fear to which these people subjected an innocent child would now be visited on them with a vengeance. “The two would sit on death row for over 30 years utilizing appeal after appeal with no closure for anyone,” the Gabriel’s Justice web master said in a post on Facebook. “Both will be placed in general population, there’s no safety house for them. This would not be true on Death Row.” With a sense of some vindication, the post is summed up with these words: “Justice has been served.”
Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction. On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.” Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.
Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle. The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual. Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.”
Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet. The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie. On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men. Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.
The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse. The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home. At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.
Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction. Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault. Their court dates are pending.
New York City, New York – Nelson Falu, 20, was sentenced by the Bronx Supreme Court to seven years in prison for his role in a horrendous 2010 gay torture case that rocked the Big Apple for weeks. Falu is the first of eight Latin King Goonies to face justice for his role in the sexual torture of three persons the gang believed to be gay. According to Gay Star News, Prosecutor Theresa Gottlieb told the court on August 9 that Falu’s victims would rather have a plea bargain settle the issue rather than be forced to “relive” the horrors they endured at the hands of the Goonies in October 2010.
Falu and seven other Goonies tortured a 17-year-old gang recruit they assumed was gay, and then lured another 17-year-old and a 30-year-old man they assumed was having gay sex with the teens into their Bronx safe house that served as a makeshift dungeon, where they were sexually tortured, as well. As reported by Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the Goonies fell upon their victims like wolves, sodomizing one of the 17-year-olds with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, solely because they suspected them of being gay. The victims were berated with homophobic slurs and burned with cigarettes, beaten with chains, and repeatedly sodomized with a wooden bat for hours. The suspects were arrested and charged with with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery as bias motivated hate crimes.
LGBTQ Nation quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying at the time of the arrests of the Goonies, “Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them. The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”
Falu, who was 18 at the time of his crimes, and two other gang members accepted plea deals in June. It remains to be seen if the five others will accept plea bargains, or face trial in court.
Lincoln, Nebraska – “I am not a pawn in a game, you know. I am a person.” Charlie Rogers, the victim of an alleged hate crime mutilation in the Nebraska capital city spoke out for the first time in an extended interview on KETV Omaha on Thursday. Rogers, a 33-year-old small business owner who lives openly as a lesbian, said she decided to grant the interview in response to media reports that police were investigating if her report was a hoax.
The five-minute interview shows the passion and hurt Ms. Rogers feels as the victim of a horrific home invasion, allegedly by three masked men early on Sunday who stripped her, bound her with zip ties, carved anti-gay slurs into her flesh, and then attempted to set the house on fire. Her harrowing experience did not end with a stay in the hospital and then in a safe house where she has been recovering since the attack. Now Ms. Rogers has to deal with the suspicions unleashed by doubts about her report of what happened to her in the dead of night in her own home. “It feels like a kick in the stomach,” she told KETV, even though she understands that there will always be doubters. “Being a victim in situation like this or a survivor and then having your integrity questioned, I guess, it feels very victimizing again,” Rogers said. “It makes an already difficult situation more difficult because my world has been changed forever by these events.” Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood suggested to NBC that they were investigating all aspects of the case, including whether Ms. Rogers made the whole thing up. The media seized on the suggestion of a hoax immediately, sensationalizing the story of this outrage into an inquest into the victim’s credibility.
Investigators found three spray-painted anti-gay epithets in Ms. Rogers’ home, including one that read, “We Found U Dyke!” Coupled with the victim’s report that the attack was motivated by homophobia, and the slurs sliced into her skin, all these factors have led police to proceed as if this case was a hate crime based on sexual orientation.
But the hate crime investigation notwithstanding, Lincoln’s populace is reportedly plagued by doubts. Speculation mounted in the days before Ms. Rogers’ interview–“what if…?”
Ms. Rogers’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, told CNN that her client wanted to dispel as much of the doubt as she could. Mikolajczyk said she wasn’t surprised that there were people who wondered if the attack really ever happened at all. She also said that Ms. Rogers was not answering any one person’s doubts in particular. “I don’t think it’s safe or necessary to point the finger at any one individual,” Mikolajczyk said. “I think it’s par for the course for any sort of high-profile incident for people to question what happened.”
Sadly, Ms. Rogers’ attorney is right: it is “par for the course” for doubts to be raised about the veracity, mental state, motives, and character of LGBTQ hate crimes victims whenever they are targeted by violent attacks. Such suspicion may or may not aid investigators to arrive at the truth in cases like this one, but it surely re-victimizes the person wounded or killed in such attacks. “We-doubt-you” stories in the press and on TV also rob many of these outrageous crimes of their news worthy power to draw badly needed national attention to the soaring increases in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. Blame and besmirch the victims of hate crimes is one of the leading ways heterosexist communities control gay people, as dozens of stories on the Unfinished Lives Blog show. One has to wonder whether statements of police officers to the media about hoaxes are less about the search for forensic truth than the desperation of the status quo to stay intact when revelatory events begin to disturb the public.
Ms. Rogers, an avid LGBTQ advocate, community volunteer, and former University of Nebraska basketball star, deserves a great deal of credit for coming forward to set the record straight, and to quell as much of the doubt as she can. Time will tell who is right, but time is also of the essence as the trail of the alleged attackers grows increasingly cold. Many in Lincoln, hundreds of not thousands, do believe Charlie Rogers, and support her full recovery even as they remain watchful that police investigators carry out a thorough, speedy search for the truth in this case, and expeditiously bring these hate criminals to justice.
Hickory, NC – In one of the grisliest murders the local Catawba County Sheriff’s Department can recall, a teen roommate uses the gay panic defense to justify his alleged ax-and-shotgun murder of an older gay man. Michael Anderson, 19, of nearby King’s Mountain, is accused of murdering 38-year-old Stephen Starr at about 4:45 a.m. on Monday in the Hickory house they shared. The Hickory Daily Record reports that Anderson, claiming he “turned straight” during alleged sexual advances by Starr, shot him with a shotgun and pistol, carved words into his body and wrote some others with a pen, before lodging an ax in the victim’s stomach. “He shot his roommate and took an ax to him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told the Daily Record. “It’s one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.” The words carved and written on Starr’s mutilated body were apparently so offensive that officials are not releasing what they were until the trial. Anderson announced the murder on his Facebook page between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., asking God to forgive him, and claiming that no one would be able to take him alive. In a bizarre twist The Box Turtle Bulletin says is reminiscent of the infamous “Twinkie Defense” used to deflect blame for the murder of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk by a straight rival on the board, Anderson claims that he took too many doses of Mucinex DM, an over-the-counter congestion medication. In a 911 recording released to the Daily Record on Tuesday, Anderson says that the pills “drove me mad”: “I Od’d on Mucinex DM. Dextromethorphan makes me feel a little weird and I took too many.” Anderson told the telecommunicator that he shot his roommate three times with a shotgun and pistol, then mutilated the corpse with an ax so brutally that Starr would not be able to be identified: “You’re not going to know who it is,” Anderson says on the recording. When asked why he killed his roommate, Anderson then says that it was because Starr was gay, and he was heterosexual. “I met [Starr] and went to his house and he took me in and I turned straight again. And he wanted to touch me and stuff and I wouldn’t let him, and he kept trying. And I waited until he went to sleep and then I shot him three times. And I mutilated him very badly and I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh God, please help me.” Starr had likened his relationship to Anderson as a parental one, according to his Facebook page. On February 6, Starr posted that he had a “new son,” a person he was trying to make a better human being. So, Anderson’s account of being picked up at a gay bar and molested seems not to square with Starr’s understanding of the relationship, neither does Anderson’s suggestion that the encounter with his older gay roommate was recent and brief. The two men apparently lived together for several days. As the case continues to sort itself out, it is well to remember that homophobia is a crooked phenomenon that erupts into violence in a variety of seemingly-irrational ways. It is also important to remember that Starr is unable to answer charges of sexual advances. News reports are carrying only allegations from the self-interested point of view of the alleged killer. The Unfinished Lives Team sees enough in this story to indicate that a possible anti-gay hate crime was committed by a desperate young man who is ready to blame over-the-counter cold medications and the victim for his actions, but not himself.