An eight-year-old boy dies from suspicious circumstances. Who is responsible? The mother and her boyfriend? Social workers, who failed to do the proper follow-ups? Police officers, who did a cursory investigation when alerted to possible child abuse? Those are some of the questions dealt with in this excellent six-episode docuseries.
As you come to find out in the last episode, what happened to Gabriel is not an isolated incident. But don’t let that discourage you from taking a deep dive into this particular case. There’s a lot to learn from Gabriel’s short life.
The title of the series refers to the criminal trials that came as a result of Gabriel’s death. At first, I was frustrated with the way the filmmakers jumped forward and backward while covering the trials. The reason for this becomes evident in the last episode. Along the way, we meet the people who cared for Gabriel in his first seven years.
Gabriel’s mother didn’t want the pregnancy nor the child. The father, who was incarcerated, was unable to care for Gabriel. Relatives offered to care for the baby. A gay uncle and his partner took care of Gabriel the first few years. Homophobia among family members and the deportation of the Uncle’s partner put an end to that loving relationship. The grandmother took over and also provided a safe environment.
Gabriel’s spent the last year of his life under the care of his mother, Pearl, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. I’ve had stress in my life, but I can’t imagine the amount of stress Gabriel endured that last year. There were beatings, verbal abuse, physical abuse, cigarette burns, and even shots in the face from a BB gun. Different people saw the bruises and cigarette burns, and the missing teeth. These people reported what they saw. But somehow, no one took the necessary steps to investigate the claims more thoroughly. Gabriel fell through the cracks.
In my opinion, Gabriel’s mother was the one person most responsible for his death. Isauro caused the injuries that led to Gabriel’s death, but I don’t believe he would have done what he did without the participation of the mother. So, what was the incident that triggered the final beating? Gabriel was playing with his sister, an act Pearl and Isauro saw as reinforcing his gay tendencies.
At least with this docuseries, Gabriel has left a mark in this world. Don’t miss this one. See it on Netflix.