JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man who was arrested and charged with murder in a deadly stabbing last month in Arlington pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court Thursday with an interpreter.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Yery Medina-Ulloa originally provided identification of a 17-year-old when he was arrested in the death of a man he said was his uncle. That ID was later determined to be false.
Detectives found out from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Medina-Ulloa is actually 24 years old and an immigrant from Honduras. Jail records show he was in Jacksonville for just two months before the incident.
On Medina-Ulloa’s behalf, the public defender pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and tampering with evidence charges in the case.
News4Jax was notified of Medina-Ulloa’s Thursday hearing by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, which is unusual. His office typically does not reach out to local news about murder cases.
News4Jax asked his administration why it chose this particular case and a spokesperson said because the administration has concerns about illegal immigration in Jacksonville and across the state.
“This horrific crime is the latest example of how unfettered illegal migration costs Floridians’ lives,” DeSantis said in a statement to News4Jax. “If not for the Biden Administration’s unlawful ‘catch and release’ policy, [victim] Francisco Cuellar would still be alive today.”
Citing a recent report, DeSantis implied in a Jacksonville news conference on Thursday that Medina-Ulloa flew into the area on one of the recent controversial flights being used by the U.S. government to move immigrants from the southern border to shelters across the U.S.
“There was the report in the New York Post about what they’re doing, what the Biden administration’s doing, flying in people who came illegally, dumping a lot in Jacksonville in the middle of the night. And there was an individual who had posed as a 17-year-old — actually was in the mid-20s — brought here, had been here, ended up committing a murder. And so now this individual has been detained, should have never been in this country to begin with, and definitely should not have been dumped in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “These are middle-of-the-night flights, no notification to the state or anybody and this is not the way you keep people safe. It’s reckless and it’s wrong.”
News4Jax has not been able to independently verify all of DeSantis’ claims or all of the New York Post’s reporting. News4Jax reached out to ICE for comment about flights to Jacksonville, and Medina-Ulloa’s involvement. A statement reads: U.S. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed an immigration detainer Oct. 13, on Yery Medina Ulloa, 24, an unlawfully present citizen of Honduras, following his felony arrest by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, for murder.”
News4Jax did speak with DeSantis’ Sr. Policy Advisor Larry Keefe and asked him where the information about Medina-Ulloa arriving on one of the Jacksonville flights came from. He didn’t know and referenced the report from the Post.
“We do not know exactly the source of that. There’s some media reporting. Unfortunately, we’ve become very reliant on what is reported in the media as to what was happening with flights coming into Florida,” Keefe said.
News4Jax asked Keefe who is helping the migrants get on the flights.
“Right now that‘s what we’re trying to find out,” he said. “There’s indication that private aircraft charter companies are involved with the aviation facet, that private bus charter companies and non-governmental organizations, social support agencies that are involved in the process.”
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said despite repeated requests for information, their office has not received any information about the flights from the Biden administration.
“They do not tell state authorities who the migrants are (and clearly in some cases the federal government does not know their real identities at the time of transport). The Biden Admin does not even give us basic info like how many migrants are being transported, how/if they are vetted, how many flights there are planned, when the flights come to Jacksonville, where the migrants are being resettled in Florida, etc.,” Pushaw wrote in an email to News4Jax. “If the Biden Administration is confident that their open border policy is good for our country, why the secrecy? Why not provide any information to state and local authorities in the communities that are impacted by this policy, including here in Florida?”
The News4Jax I-TEAM discovered records showing 21 Avelo Airlines flights landing in Jacksonville in the past three months. That airline has been coming from places like Burbank, Houston, El Paso, Austin and McAllen, Texas. When asked about it the White House said it’s their legal responsibility to safely care for unaccompanied children until they can be united with a parent or sponsor.
Prosecutors are meeting with the grand jury on Nov. 18 to present their case to upgrade the charge to first-degree murder.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Medina-Ulloa told police he stabbed his “uncle” after he was struck by him. JSO said it found that the home had interior surveillance video, which showed the incident.
The Sheriff’s Office said it recovered a knife from a wooded area on Homard Place, where Medina-Ulloa was found walking, covered in blood.
Prosecutors are currently seeking a sentence of more than 20 years to life if Medina-Ulloa is convicted. The state wants the trial to start March 31 and a pre-trial date was set for Nov. 30.
Medina-Ulloa is currently being held without bond and ICE has a hold on him.