Before his death, Gabriel Fernandez didn’t always live with his mother — his uncles Michael Lemos Carranza and David Martinez were also a big part of his life. Netflix‘s documentary The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez explained to true crime viewers that Carranza was the one raising Fernandez from birth. But what happened that led to the 8-year-old boy leaving their custody and dying at the hands of mom Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre?

After having Fernandez, his mom, Pearl, decided she wasn’t the right person to raise him. Instead, she gave him to her uncle Carranza (Fernandez’s great-uncle) and his partner, David Martinez. Martinez, who was featured in the documentary, explained, “She didn’t want him and the family didn’t want her to have him. … We convinced her to have Gabriel and for her to give [the baby] to us so we [could] raise it.”

Gabriel Fernandez and Michael Lemos Carranza

The couple raised the little boy until he was 4 years old. “[Michael Lemos Carranza and David Martinez] were both very good with him,” Elizabeth Carranza, Fernandez’ great-aunt, said in the documentary. “They would take him everywhere, he would always be clean and happy. … You see his pictures as a baby, he was always smiling. They loved being with him and raising him, and Gabriel loved them both very much.”

However, before he turned 4, the little boy began living with his grandparents Robert and Sandra Fernandez. “[Robert] said that two gay guys shouldn’t be raising a kid,” Martinez said in the Netflix program. Though the uncles confronted Fernandez’s grandfather, Martinez says Robert believed that being raised by two gay men was making the little boy gay, so the grandparents decided to raise him themselves.

David Martinez

Fernandez lived with Robert and Sandra until he was 7, at which point Pearl and Aguirre took him back. After they beat the 8-year-old boy so badly that he needed to go to the hospital, where he eventually died, his uncles rushed to be by his side. “We were not allowed to see him,” Martinez explained in the doc. “When we got to the hospital the day before, he was still alive, and he was going to talk to me.” Instead, they never got the chance.

According to a cousin who runs a Facebook page in the little boy’s honor, Carranza passed away in September 2014, a year and a half after Fernandez’s death in May 2013. In the documentary, Martinez explains that he currently lives in El Salvador after being deported by ICE. Though he was afraid to return to the country after 38 years away, he feels that Fernandez and Carranza are with him in spirit. “I feel like they’re with me … to this moment,” he said.

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