Santa Clarita prosecutor shares story ahead of Netflix series

Jon Hatami, prosecutor for the Complex Victims Unit, sits in his SCV home in this 2019 Signal file photo. Dan Watson/The Signal

When Antelope Valley Assistant District Attorney Jon Hatami thinks back to the Gabriel Fernandez trial of which he was the assistant district attorney for the prosecution, he remembers that it was “hard to believe.”

“Until we did the trial and people actually were in court hearing it, I think people had a hard time believing it until they actually heard it,” said Hatami, via a phone call on Friday. “I’ll probably never have another ‘Gabriel,’ it was just such a horrendous case,” he added.

The story of Gabriel Fernandez is mired in sorrow and grief, as well as a murder trial that put multiple agencies in Los Angeles County under the microscope.

In 2013, Fernandez, an 8-year-old from Palmdale, was tortured and murdered by his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre.

An autopsy report showed bruises, fractures and cuts all over his body, including his groin, as well as BB’s embedded in his body.

Judge George G. Lomeli called the case “nothing short of evil.” Aguirre was given the death penalty and Pearl Fernandez would later be given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

And now, nearly seven years after Fernandez was killed, the case surrounding his death is set to be released as a six-part, true-crime series on Netflix called “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.”

A Santa Clarita-based district attorney and Canyon High graduate, Hatami said Friday that the case he presented to the judge as the prosecutor in charge was difficult to revisit, even after all these years.

“I was a young district attorney when I got the case, I had not been in office that long,” said Hatami. “It was such a horrendous case and it really was emotionally draining and pulling on myself and my wife … and I think a lot of people.”

Much like previous true crime Netflix series, the documentary over the course of six episodes will follow the story of Gabriel and his muder, showing the gaps and negligence that was exhibited by career social workers who should have prevented the crime from happening, Hatami said.

Hatami said he watched the first episode with about 100 other people along with his wife, a detective at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, on Thursday night.

“First off, the trailer, as soon as I saw that I started crying, my wife started crying,” said Hatami. “For me and probably most (everyone else in the audience), I think the first about 15 minutes was pretty tough.”

But despite the graphic and gut-wrenching nature of the documentary, Hatami said that it’s important work for people to see as the documentary crew did a “really good job” showing the evidence Hatami and the prosecution presented in court.

“Here’s the thing, it’s hard to watch some of it, but I think it’s important for everybody,” he said. “Children are the most important resource there is, they’re the most vulnerable in our society, and it’s important to see what we, as a community and as a government, are doing to help protect our children.”

All six episodes of “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” are coming to Netflix on Feb. 26.

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