Biannela Susana avoids prison time

Mother pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in death of 2-year-old son

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of Duval County's youngest murder defendant, Cristian Fernandez, avoided any prison time at her sentencing Wednesday afternoon for her part in the death of her youngest son.

Biannela Susana, 27, received a suspended sentence with probation for the rest of 10 years and she lost custody of her children. Susana previously pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter charges for her role in the March 2011 death of her 2-year-old son David Gallariaga.

Susana will immediately have to go to the Hubbard House for 90 days, then must go to Community Corrections for two years. She must undergo a slew of psychological programs, then must be employed by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center for at least three years after getting out of the Hubbard House.

She is not allowed to have supervision of her two younger children, nor is she allowed to talk to Fernandez without permission from his lawyers or guardians.

After initially being charged with first-degree murder at age 12, Fernandez was allowed to plead guilty to charges of manslaughter and aggravated battery in his half brother's death.

Prosecutors say Fernandez beat Gallariaga (pictured, right) 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 died two days after the attack. Susana 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," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Detective Mechelle Soehling testified in a sentencing hearing last month.

Prosecutor Mark Caleil said Susana "did nothing except save herself."

After the sentencing, Caliel said Gallariaga should not be forgotten.

"I think we have to turn our focus and attention to the victim, David Gallariaga, and his surviving siblings, who were victims in this case as well," prosecutor Mark Caliel said.

At last month's hearing, Susana's defense team called psychologists and social workers to the stand to say Susana suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after a lifetime of abandonment, poverty and domestic abuse. Susana was 12 years old when she gave birth to Fernandez (pictured, below), and moved her young family to Jacksonville to get away from an abusive relationship.

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?"

Several women's help groups, including the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center offered to take care of Susana if she was released, giving her a place to stay and work so she can be rehabilitated.

Susana was facing anywhere between 13 and 30 years in prison for her role in Gallariaga's death. Her relatives were pleased with Wednesday's outcome.

"I think this is what the family wanted, what the family prayed for, and it's just God's blessing on David's birthday," Callow said.

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.