JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The mother of Duval County's youngest murder defendant, Cristian Fernandez, faced her own sentencing hearing Friday. After a day of testimony, she'll have to wait a few weeks to learn what sentence she will face in connection with her youngest son's death.
Biannela Susana has pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter charges for her role in the March 2011 death of her 2-year-old son David Gallariaga. After initially being charged with first-degree murder at age 12, Cristian Fernandez was allowed to plead guilty to charges of manslaughter and aggravated battery.
Prosecutors say Fernandez beat Gallariaga when Susana left the two boys home alone. When she got home, she found her youngest son unresponsive, never called 911, and waited two hours before taking the child to St. Luke's Hospital.
The toddler (pictured, right) died two days after the attack, then lied to police and Department of Children and Family investigators.
"She said she was at the bank, she said she was not at home when this incident occurred at all, and that Cristian had called her on the phone, not from the other room into the kitchen," testified Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Detective Mechelle Soehling.
Prosecutor Mark Caleil said Susana "did nothing except save herself."
Susana's defense team called psychologists and social workers to the stand to say Susana suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after a lifetime of abandonment, poverty and domestic abuse. Susana was 12 years old when she gave birth to Cristian, and moved her young family to Jacksonville to get away from an abusive relationship.
"So you have this person who's terrified of DCF," said Psychologist Jacqueline Brown.
Defense experts and family members said the boys' mother was wrong for not getting her injured 2-year-old medical care earlier, but she didn't do it on purpose.
"We all make mistakes, and some of us make bigger mistakes than others," Susana's half-sister, Jessica Callow, testified. "But as the Bible, says let any who have not sinned be the first to throw a rock. Who are we to judge her based solely on our perceptions of the accident?"
Deloris Barr Weaver is also in court as her foundation is urging the judge to not sentence Susana to prison. Several women's help groups were in the courtroom offering to take care of Susana if she's released, giving her a place to stay and work, so she can be rehabilitated.
After hours of testimony, Judge James Daniel said he would announce his sentence the week of August 12.
Susana could be sentenced to anywhere between 13 and 30 years in prison for her role in Gallariaga's death.
In February, Fernandez, who is now 14, was sentenced to remain in a juvenile facility until his 19th birthday, followed by eight years of probation.
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