The Face of a "Cold Blooded Murderer"?
Biannela Susana, the 25-Year-Old Mother of Both Murderer and Victim
What Happens When A Broken & Abused Child Snaps?
A toddler is dead, and another young boy, his older brother, could spend the rest of this life in prison as punishment. The question is - is charging a 12-year-old boy with first-degree murder, and trying him as an adult (a charge which carries a mandatory life sentence), a boy who was severely neglected and abused his entire life by those who were supposed to protect him, really serving justice?
It was Monday, March 14th, 2011, when 2-year-old David Galarraga was left at his Jacksonville, Florida home, under the supervision and care of his older half-brother, Cristian Fernandez, despite the fact that Cristian had already broken David's leg while wrestling with him months beforehand. What happened that day would change both of their lives forever, and has sparked a very emotional and heated debate about the way the judicial system handles juveniles accused of serious and heinous crimes.
While the story of what exactly occurred that day has changed many times, the basic facts are still the same: at some point while his mother was gone, 12-year-old Cristian became physically abusive with his 2-year-old brother, and shoved him very roughly into a bookshelf, twice. Later that day, upon his mother arriving home, Cristian, who was worried about his brother, took her to see David immediately, who was unconscious by that time. For some reason, their mother, 25-year-old Biannela Susana, chose simply to change the babies clothes, wipe the blood off his face, and put ice on his head, rather than calling 911 or rushing him to the hospital immediately, despite the fact that he was unconscious and unresponsive. Susana said that she was hoping it was just a concussion and that he would wake up. She waited over 4 hours, while poor David remained unconscious, before finally taking him to the hospital. David remained there, fighting hard for his life, for 2 days before he finally succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
As for the more than 4 hours that Biannela Susana waited before seeking medical care for her son; she spent most of that time on the internet. She took the time to do some online banking, watched some music videos on YouTube, read some news stories online about Pippa Middleton, as well as David & Victoria Beckham, and checked her email. She did some other searches periodically while on the computer, including the phrase "when someone gets knocked out", she also visited the Wikipedia page for "coma", and visited a website about concussions multiple times, none of which seemed to have scared her or propelled her into action.
She finally did her last web search, for the address of the hospital which she would then drive her son to, and where he would eventually die, over 4 hours after she returned home and found him unconscious. David died 2 days later from his injuries, which included a skull fracture caused by blunt force trauma, which caused bleeding on his brain, and was the ultimate cause of his death. In addition, he also suffered from a subdural hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, bruising on the left eye, and bruising on the bridge of his nose.
Those 4 hours, unfortunately, could have been what cost David his life, as Doctors told Susana that if she had sought medical help immediately, he might have survived. For her part in her son's death, Biannela Susana was arrested on April 1st, 2011, and has been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child under 18 years by culpable negligence. This is due not only to the fact that Susana did not seek medical treatment for her son immediately, but also because she was fully aware that Cristian was responsible previously for breaking David's leg, but she still chose to leave David alone with him.
Cristian Fernandez was initially arrested for Aggravated Child Abuse on March 14th, 2011, but after David's death, on June 3rd of 2011, his was indicted for first-degree murder.
The real question we need to ask ourselves as the citizens whose rely on the judicial system to serve and protect us; are children as responsible as adults for their actions? or are the adults who failed them the ones who bear the true responsibility when these children act out?
Justice for Juveniles Video on Cristian's case, and the impossible position he is in
Cristian Fernandez Arrest Report
What Happened & Why?
The question of whether a person's past trauma can be used to excuse or explain their criminal behaviour has always raised a lot of controversy. Regardless of what side of the issue you are on, one thing is for certain; we need to be open to hearing their stories if we want to have any hope of understanding how a person can become a criminal, and do something as tragic and disturbing as taking someone's life, so that we can hopefully help to prevent it in the future.
Cristian Fernandez's story is so horrid and twisted that it sounds like some crazy, far-fetched movie plot. The only life Cristian and his siblings, including poor David, have known has been filled with violence, pain, abuse, and neglect. In his short life, he has endured far more trauma than most people will ever experience in their entire life, he has experienced more pain than most people can even imagine.
The story starts with Cristian's birth, on January 14th, 1999, in theory. Though really this entire tragedy was put into motion over 9 months before, when Cristian was conceived from a relationship between his 12-year-old mother, Biannela Susana, and Jose Antonio Fernandez, his 20-year-old father. He was criminally charged because of the relationship, but avoided incarceration after vowing to raise the boy. He was instead given ten years probation, and is now a registered sex offender. Jose was around on for a while on a regular basis to hang out with his son, but he was not the primary care giver. It wouldn't be too long before he broke his vow, and completely disappeared from Cristian's life.
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Obviously, at the age of only 12, his mother was incapable of properly caring for him by herself, but apparently the only real help she had came from her 34-year-old mother, who was a drug addict, and really no help at all. When Cristian was just 2, and his mother 14, they were both removed from the custody of Biannela's mother and put into foster care, after authorities found a dirty and naked Cristian walking around by himself outside a Florida motel while his grandmother was doing drugs inside.
Things went from bad to worse for Cristian after that. His mother began dating, and eventually married Luis Galarraga-Blanco, when Cristian was around 7 years old. By this point, Cristian's father, who had been a part of his son's life in some way from the time he was out of prison until that point, decided to step aside and not get in the middle of the family relationship, and it was the last time he would see his son over the years that passed. By that time, Biannela, then 23, already had 3 more children by Luis. As multiple people around the family have testified, Luis had a very bad temper, and was physically abusive towards Cristian, and his siblings. Neighbours also commented that Cristian always seemed quiet and withdrawn, and that he was solely responsible for doing all the chores and adult tasks around the house, including cooking and cleaning.
On October 22nd, 2010, a then 11-year-old Cristian showed up at school with a swollen eye, which would be the catalyst for another horrifically traumatic experience in his young life. When Cristian was questioned by officers about this swollen eye, he told them that his stepfather had punched him in the face that morning. His eye was severely injured enough that he was taken the hospital to be assessed for retinal damage.
While Cristian was at the hospital, his mother and the Department of Children's Services were called to the school, where a discussion took place. After Luis refused to come to the school for questioning, the police went to his apartment to arrest him. He would not answer his cell phone, nor answer the door when police arrived. They were not prepared for the door to be opened by a frightened little girl, who immediately ran back into the rear bedroom, trailing bloody footprints behind her, nor were they prepared for the gruesome discovery that would follow. Luis Galarraga-Blanco was discovered dead, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He had committed suicide in front of his children, including David, then only a year old, who was found covered in blood, and Cristian, accused now in the murder of David, his half-brother.
Galarraga-Blanco is believed to have killed himself not only to avoid prosecution for physically abusing Cristian, but also because he is alleged to have been sexually abusing him as well. Doctors who have examined Cristian have stated that he shows signs of long term sexual abuse. In addition, two forensic psychiatrists have concluded that he is emotionally under-developed, but that and his tough life, he is still, essentially "reformable".
State attorney Angela Corey has chosen, despite all the evidence of the horrific, and obviously damaging, childhood that Cristian has had to endure, to try the 12-year-old boy as an adult. She has stated that she has no choice, and that despite the abuse, neglect, and other trauma that Cristian has suffered, there are many kids who come from even worse backgrounds than his, and the court can't allow the horror he has suffered to be used as an "excuse". If Christian were tried as a juvenile, rather than an adult, he would be given the chance of rehabilitation, and would be allowed out at the age of 21. Being tried as an adult means that if found guilty, the 12-year-old boy will be given a mandatory sentence of life in prison, without the chance of parole. The controversial question is; is that really justice, to send a broken child to jail for life? or are we truly being protected from a violent boy who will possibly turn into a very dangerous man?
Short Clip: Cristian in court the day he pleads "not guilty" to first-degree murder
Preparing for their trials...
Trial and Sentencing
Cristian has already gone through his arraignment and all his other preliminary hearings, and has been denied his appeal request to be tried as a juvenile, and has been officiallycharged as an adult. His trial for the charge of first-degree murder was set to start on February 27th, 2012, but it appears that a pre-trial hearing was continued from February 8th until the 27th, so the official starting date of his trial will be pushed back.
Biannela's separate trial for Aggravated Manslaughter due to Culpable Negligence was also set to start on February 27th, 2012, but has also been delayed. Her next hearing is scheduled for sometime in March, when a new trial date will likely be set.
There are many people who are very upset that Cristian is being tried as an adult, despite the fact that he was 12 years old at the time of David's death, and also because David could possibly have survived had their mother, Biannela Susana, sought medical attention for David immediately. If you would like to support Cristian, please consider joining one or both of the following facebook groups;
Justice for Cristian:
Support Cristian Fernandez:
or you can show your support by electronically signing the following petition;