Plea Deal Close In Boy's Murder Case
12-Year-Old Accused Of Killing 2-Year-Old Half Brother
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case of a 12-year-old boy accused of killing his 2-year-old half brother say they are very close to reaching a plea agreement.
"It's going to take more effort between both parties to reach an agreement, but I think we'll get there," said Matt Shirk, public defender for Cristian Fernandez, the youngest person ever in Duval County to be charged with first-degree murder.
Shirk said one of his sticking points in the agreement is Fernandez serving his time in a juvenile detention center, even though he's charged as an adult.
"Our goal has always been to get Cristian treatment, to get him help, given his upbringing," Shirk said. "We hope that we can get him into some sort of juvenile facility that will treat his needs as a child. He's just a little boy, and I think that's going to happen."
The other key question is, how much time will Fernandez serve? A New Hampshire woman is trying to get Fernandez's case back into the juvenile justice system, although Shirk says that's unlikely to happen. An online petition has already collected more than 157,000 signatures, proof of how quickly this case has grabbed attention across the country and around the world.
"It's certainly a very unique case, one that we've never seen here and most other places in this country, let alone around the world, so it doesn't surprise me that there would be international attention," Shirk said.
State Attorney Angela Corey said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that this is one of the most difficult cases that she's ever had to deal with.
"What do you do with a 12-year-old child who commits the most serious of crimes under our laws?" Corey said.
She said that she never wanted to seek a life sentence for Fernandez, nor did she want the case to go to trial. Instead, Corey said, she wants a sentence for the boy that both punishes and rehabilitates him.
"When our juvenile laws were first enacted, who would've ever dreamed that a child so young would commit the most heinous of crimes?" Corey said.
Corey said she's not as concerned with where Fernandez serves his time if a plea deal is reached, but rather that the two sides reach a resolution that will benefit both Fernandez and the community.
"Cristian still must be held accountable even though he's only 12 years old," Corey said. "Remember, children are taught at a very early age not to bite, scratch or kick. He has functioned well in his school environments where he knows better than to touch other people. So what we have to determine is how do we make sure that Cristian won't be a threat to any other children like 2-year-old David, his little brother that he killed."
Fernandez's mom, Biannela Susana, is also in jail, charged with negligent manslaughter. Detectives say she waited hours before taking her 2-year-old son, David Galarriago, to the hospital after Fernandez beat him against a bookcase.
Linda Dayson, of Hurting Families with Children in Crime, visited Susana in jail.
"Biannela's spirits is pretty much to be expected of a mother that has children that are in foster care and a child that's deceased and another child that's in juvenile," Dayson said. "She's doing her best to keep her spirits up by going to church, and they have prayer and read the Bible and things like that."
Dayson said Susana's primary concern is her children. She is also trying to raise enough money that she can hold and attend a funeral for David. The city has kept his ashes, and a judge ordered that Susana could attend if she could pay what it would cost for deputies to escort her to and from jail, where she remains held with bail set at $1 million. (Vystar account 702893603 in the name of Biannela Susana)
"This is a real fragile situation with her," she said. "There's a lot involved here, and basically she just wants to have the opportunity to see all her kids and to hug them and to let them know that she just hasn't forgotten about them."
Fernandez's next court hearing is Oct. 31.
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