Sexual abuse, physical assaults and a home filled with drugs: The heartbreaking upbringing of boy, 13, who is being tried as an adult after “killing his 2-year-old brother”Cristian Fernandez was 12 when he “smashed brother”s head against shelf and sexually abused his five-year-old cousin”Records show he suffered a childhood of neglect and abuseBorn to 12-year-old mother who was sexually abusedFound wandering streets naked and dirty when he was two and neglected by drug-abusing grandmotherSexually abused by cousin and hospitalised after violent assault by stepfather who went on to kill himself
Torment: Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 when he allegedly killed his brother, was born to a 12-year-old mother and abused throughout his upbringing
Police and family services records have given a startling insight into the heartbreaking childhood of a 13-year-old boy accused of beating his two-year-old brother to death.
Cristian Fernandez reportedly suffered neglect at the hands of a teenage mother and a drug-abusing grandmother, sexual abuse by a cousin and physical assaults by a stepfather who went on to kill himself.
Fernandez, who was just 12 when he fatally smashed his brother”s head against a book shelf, could become America”s youngest ever “lifer” after being charged as an adult over the murder.
But the case has ignited a fierce debate over whether the punishment is too strict for a child – particularly for one who was left to languish in a poisonous upbringing littered with abuse.
Fernandez was born in Miami, Florida in 1999 to Biannela Susana, who was just 12. The boy”s 25-year-old father received 10 years” probation for sexually assaulting her.
Two years later, both mother and son went to foster care after authorities found the toddler filthy, naked and walking in the street at 4am near the motel where his grandmother, who was taking care of him, was found surrounded by cocaine.
In 2007, when Fernandez was eight, the Department of Children and Families investigated a report that he was sexually molested by an older cousin. Officials noted there were other troubling incidents: he killed a kitten; he simulated sex with classmates; he masturbated at school.
The boy learned to squelch his feelings, once telling a counselor: “You got to suck up feelings and get over it.”
Advice: Cristian Fernandez, 13, left, talks with his attorneys in Jacksonville, Florida who question whether he fully understands his rights
Entrance: Wearing a bright orange jumpsuit that collects around his ankles, Cristian is seen while entering the courtroom on murder and sexual abuse charges
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Bad start: His mother Biannela Susana, left, fell pregnant when she was 12 and the 25-year-old father was found guilty of sexual abuse. Cristian, right, was also sexually abused when he was young
Involvement: Biannela Susana, right, is escorted out of the courtroom in shackles after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the death of her 2-year-old son
When they arrived, Susana revealed that two weeks before David”s death, Cristian had broken the toddler”s leg while wrestling.
The medical examiner said David might have survived if she had taken him to the hospital sooner for the head injury and she was charged with aggravated manslaughter. She pleaded guilty in March and could get 30 years behind bars.
Fernandez was charged with first-degree murder. Another felony charge was filed after his five-year-old half-brother told a psychiatrist that Fernandez had sexually assaulted him.
The boy has talked openly to investigators and therapists about his crimes and his life; the gritty details are captured in various court documents.
“Cristian denied any plans or intent to kill his brother,” one doctor wrote. “He seemed rather defensive about discussing what triggered his anger.
Too young Fernandez is being tried as an adult and could face life in jail, which has sparked a fierce debate
Neglect: His mother admitted she surfed the internet for hours after her youngest son was beaten
“He talked about having a “flashback” of the abuse by his stepfather as the motive for this offense… Cristian was rather detached emotionally while discussing the incident.”
Fernandez has been charged as an adult and is the youngest inmate awaiting trial in Duval County.
Based on psychological evaluations, prosecutors say that Fernandez poses a significant risk of violence, which is why he has been detained and charged with two first-degree felonies.
If convicted of either crime, Fernandez could face a life sentence – a possibility that has stirred strong emotions among those for and against such strict punishment.
The case is one of the most complex and difficult in Florida”s courts, and it could change how first-degree murder charges involving juvenile defendants are handled statewide.
One complication involves whether Fernandez understood his rights during police interrogations.
Richard Kuritz, a former Jacksonville prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, said everyone agrees that Fernandez should face consequences if convicted – but what should they be
Scene: After searching for words like “coma” and concussions online, she eventually called police
Bleak life: Cristian, who lived with his mother on this Jacksonville street, had spent years in foster care
Child: A video shows him talking with police. His lawyers question whether he fully understood his rights
“What would be a fair disposition I don”t suspect this case is going to end anytime soon,” said Kuritz, who has been following the case closely.
Supporters of local State Attorney Angela Corey say she”s doing the right thing by trying Fernandez as an adult: holding a criminal accountable to the full extent of the law. But others, like Carol Torres, say Fernandez should be tried in juvenile court and needs help, not life in prison.
“He should be rehabilitated and have a second chance at life,” said Torres, 51. Her grandson attended school with Fernandez and she has created a Facebook page to support him.
In other states, children accused of violent crimes are often charged or convicted as juveniles.
In 2011, a Colorado boy pleaded guilty to killing his two parents when he was 12; he was given a seven-year sentence in a juvenile facility and three years parole.
A Pennsylvania boy accused of killing his father”s pregnant fiancee and her unborn child when he was 11 was sent this year to a juvenile facility where he could remain in state custody until he is 21.
Last month, Judge Mallory Cooper ruled his interrogations are not admissible, saying he couldn”t knowledgeably waive his rights to remain silent and consult an attorney. Prosecutors are appealing.