Cristian Fernandez pleads guilty to manslaughter, aggravated battery | News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville's youngest murder suspect has entered a guilty plea.
Cristian Fernandez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery Friday morning.
According to the plea deal, he will be released when he turns 19, and will then spend eight years on probation.
Fernandez killed his two-year-old half brother David Galarriago at their apartment in 2011 when he was 12 years old. He spent his 13th birthday in jail.
Police reports show that Fernandez hit his half brother on the head at least twice, killing him.
Additionally, in January 2012, a grand jury indicted Fernandez on sexual battery charges, after determining that there was enough evidence to prosecute Fernandez for allegedly molesting another one of his siblings.
However, in August 2012, Judge Mallory Cooper ruled that Fernandez's alleged confession to the sexual battery couldn't be used as evidence in court, and then in November of that year, the State Attorney's Office dropped the sexual battery charges altogether.
Prosecutors later explained that they had no physical evidence or witnesses to the alleged sexual battery and even said that the victim, at one point, denied the allegations.
As part of the plea agreement, Fernandez will be jailed in the juvenile justice system until his 19th birthday in January 2018 followed by eight years of probation.
If he violates his probation, he could face up to 15 years in prison as an adult.
Fernandez was represented by several lawyers from five firms, who believed it was wrong for him to be charged as an adult. Attorney Hank Coxe said they achieved what they set out to do: salvage an adult life for Fernandez.
"The state of Florida took away his mother, took away his siblings. He is working by himself right now. I think the structure will be good for him. He's worked hard the last two years, he's made great grades, great friends and everybody who deals with him loves him," Coxe said.
At a news conference afterward, State Attorney Angela Corey showed photos of Galarriago. Corey said he was badly beaten by his half-brother, struck a dozen times, a defenseless toddler.
Corey said it was a difficult case, but one where charging him as an adult produced justice and led to a middle ground.
"This defendant needed to be punished for acts he committed against this child, needed to receive rehabilitation that went beyond what the juvenile justice system could provide," Corey said. "This child suffered brutal infliction of pain, of injury and multiple injuries that resulted in his immediate unconsciousness and his death. This was not an accident and this was not negligence."