Jacksonville, FL – Cristian Fernandez, now 14, is the youngest person charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the city’s history. Friday he received reduced charges for pleading guilty to manslaughter for the March 2011 death of his 2-year-old half-brother David.
Cristian initially faced life without parole for the deliberate beating death of his toddler half-brother. The Circuit Judge, Mallory Cooper, accepted a plea agreement in the case which will guarantee the 14-year-old will remain incarcerated until January 2018. He will then be 19 years old.
The terms of the plea deal also reduced an additional child abuse charge to aggravated battery. While incarcerated, Cristian will be required to undergo psychological treatment and continue his education. The plea agreement came less than a month before the murder trial was set to begin.
Cristian faced separate assault charges, but those were dropped due to a lack of evidence. When Cristian was 12, he was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a 5-year-old relative.
Upon release Cristian will serve eight years of probation, prohibiting him from making contact with siblings and engaging in unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16 unless otherwise approved by probation authorities.
The probation may be suspended after five years if Cristian satisfactorily adheres to the outlined conditions of his release. If he violates probation, he will face 15 years in Florida state prison as an adult and be placed with other adults.
Back in March of 2011, David, Cristian’s half-brother, was taken to the hospital while unconscious with head injuries by the boy’s mother, Biannela Susana. The toddler died two days later. Medical experts who reviewed the case estimated David had been struck in the face and head a dozen times, asserting it was not just an accident.
Biannela later pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter in her part of the toddler’s injuries and subsequent death. She was found culpable as a result of her leaving the child alone with Cristian and a younger sister and waited more than eight hours before taking David to the hospital.
Authorities never intended to send the teenager away for life, which he would have, had the first-degree murder conviction held. Instead, attorneys in the case were more concerned the child, who was 12 at the time of his crimes, receive counseling and treatment.
State Attorney Angela Corey said:
“We believe this was the best way to resolve this case and to reach the middle ground we were striving for from the inception, a middle ground that would both punish and rehabilitate Cristian Fernandez.”
Corey strongly defends her office’s controversial decision to have Cristian indicted in the first place.
[Image Mugshots of Biannela Susana and Cristian Fernandez]