Gabriel Fernandez journalist talks about emotional distress of working the case
He also produced the Netflix documentary
The journalist who reported on the Gabriel Fernandez case has spoken out about the emotional distress which came from covering the story, and the “battle wounds” he has been left with. Garrett Therolf, who also produced the Netflix documentary The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, says the case will stay with him for the rest of his life.
*This article contains some details from the child abuse case*
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez tells the story of eight-year-old Gabriel, who was tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend. His mother, Pearl Fernandez, was sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of intentional murder by torture and is now on death row.
The details of the case are gruesome, and members of the courtroom at the murder trial were told it was going to be emotional, and advised to leave if they felt overwhelmed.
For the Los Angeles Times journalist who report on the Gabriel Fernandez case, Garrett Therolf, this was an all too real experience. Without his investigative reporting, Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre would not have been sentenced and the Netflix documentary telling Gabriel’s story wouldn’t exist. He has said reporting on a story of this nature about a child was difficult and left him having therapy and with life-long “battle wounds”.
Garrett features a lot in the Netflix documentary, narrating through his experiences covering the story and the difficulties he faced. He says the county requested every single email that had been sent to him regarding the case. But it wasn’t just difficult for him in regards to covering the story physically, the case affected his mental health too.
Garrett told The Wrap: “When I was in conversations with my friends and family, I think I was probably distracted a lot of time because the story was on my mind. But the emotional distress that I was under doesn’t come within 100 miles of Gabriel’s experience, and I think that, you know, what happened to him and the reasons for that really required me and everybody else to put our feelings and needs aside because the story was so important.
“I had a therapist for a lot of the time, so there was an opportunity to kind of step back and deal with my mental health in that way.” Garrett said LA Times provided a nap room and puppies were brought into the office to help staff.
He added: “I remember after watching the final cut [of the documentary] all the way through, you know, weeping very deeply. It’s a lot to process, what happened to Gabriel and the reasons for that. You can’t get through a reporting experience like this without some, you know, kind of battle wounds and scars and so I think I was mindful of that, too.
“To really deal with the kind of secondary trauma of that reporting requires — at least for me — finding a good therapist.”
Garett has been quite vocal on Twitter since the Netflix documentary was released, sharing his hope that the story will place more attention on LA’s child welfare system.
People used Google today to search Gabriel Fernandez more than Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. I hope this eye on LA's child welfare system adds urgency to the topic and also leads people to writers like @MarbinMiller, @abscribe and @MarjieLundstrom pic.twitter.com/nsv8IKWaho
— Garrett Therolf (@gtherolf) February 27, 2020
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.