‘Trial of Gabriel Fernandez’ documentary staff had ‘therapist on call while making series’, director says – The Sun03/09/2020
STAFF working on the Gabriel Fernandez documentary series on Netflix had a therapist on-call during production, the director said.
The documentary includes graphic descriptions and pictures of horrific abuse the eight-year-old boy endured from his mother and her boyfriend before he was eventually killed – all because they believed he was gay.
“We worked on this for almost two years. This was super emotional for everyone,” director Brian Knappenberger told TheWrap.
“We actually had a therapist that was being offered to people — we had never done that on a production before," he said.
The horrific abuse, described in the documentary The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, left medical staff "traumatized."
Crews working on the production of the series also struggled at times with the harrowing story.
Gabriel was shot in the genitals with a BB gun, had burns all over his body and had cat litter in his stomach,evidence showed, nurse Alison Segal told the court as seen in the documentary.
The young boy's brain was left the consistency of Rice Krispies due to the horrific abuse, Segal said.
He also had been locked in a cabinet that was nicknamed "the box."
"It was very emotional to go through, we spent time with interviews, we fact-checked everything," Knappenberger told TheWrap.
"But everybody that went through this just felt like there was a purpose and it was a story we had to tell.”
Police responded after Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, 31, called 911 and said the boy had slipped and hit his head.
It was discovered, however, that Gabriel had been enduring abuse for eight months.
Gabriel was rushed to the hospital, but died two days later after he was declared brain dead.
Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 35, were found guilty on murder and a special circumstance of torture in the boy's death.
Knappenberger previously described that hearing testimonies of the abuse during the trial left the crew "a wreck."
"We were all a wreck in the beginning," the director told Entertainment Weekly.
"We heard from first responders, who for many years took emergency calls of all types, testify that this was the powerful thing they’d ever seen or been a part of.
"Gabriel’s story meant so much to so many people.”
The documentary investigates how the abuse went on for so long, and how it was overlooked by so many people.
Gabirel's school teacher was in contact with a social worker, Stephanie Rodriguez, who was assigned to his case, as she reported multiple instances of abuse told by the child.
He pleaded for help eight times as he came to school with visible marks of abuse.
The boy once asked his school teacher, Jennifer Garcia, if it was "normal to bleed" after being hit with the metal part of a belt.
Despite numerous reports from Garcia to Rodriguez, including one that the child was punched in the mouth by his mother, and had visible bruises on his face, he was not removed from the home.
The child told his teacher each time after Rodriguez stopped by, the abuse he endured worsened.
After one instance where Gabriel told his teacher that his mother shot him in the face with a BB gun, Rodriguez went to the home and was told by the child his injuries were from an accident, the documentary said.
Rodriguez took the child's word, and did not demand medical follow-up after than instance, according to the documentary.
The worsening abuse eventually led to Gabriel's death in May 2013, after he was rushed to the hospital and declared brain dead days later.
Following a guilty verdict from the jury, Pearl Fernandez was sentenced to life in prison, and Aguirre was sentenced to death.
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