David Galarriago
- March 14, 2011

Up late last night, October 20, 2014, I was watching a show called "Juvenile Lifer". I was shocked to see the story was about a 12 year old boy who was facing life in prison, without parole, for killing his two year old brother. I watched as this child was asked questions by a woman, I don't know who she was, but this child seemed to be scared and unaware of the seriousness of the trouble he was in. I kept thinking that so many ADULTS have killed children while abusing them and they are walking the street and while I don't think that what Christian did was right, I don't know that he is even old enough to understand that seriousness of what was taking place. Christian was alone in the room with adults he didn't know, there was no lawyer there to represent him, to tell him not to talk, to advise him on anything, I kept thinking how wrong it all seemed be.

Christian Fernandez was one of several children in the home where he was left to care for those children while his mother, Biannela Susana, a 25 year old woman,  was "out" running errands. Reports said that Biannela had been raped at the age of 12 and gave birth to Christian as a result of that rape. A Psychological report showed that Christian began having trouble when he was only three years old. Christian had once killed a kitten by slamming its head on the floor because it had scratched him in the face. There was a violent background in his life, with Christian and his siblings having been abused by a stepfather who upon learning that the police were coming to arrest him, shot himself in front of the children. After that incident, Christian and the family moved to Jacksonville and Christian was enrolled as a sixth grader at the Kernan Middle School.

On March 14, 2011, Biannela said she was going out to do some errands. Christian was left home alone with his siblings. At some point, Christian called his mother to tell her that David was hurt. Biannela came home to find her son asleep on the bed, she drove her other children to school, then put ice on David's head and headed for her computer where she proceeded to look up information on how to treat a concussion. Biannela waited for about eight hours for David to wake up, but he never did. David was taken to the hospital where he was found to be in a coma.

While being questioned, Christian asked if his brother had "woken up yet" and he was told no, that he was still sleeping. The woman doing the questioning asked Christian to tell her the truth, to show her, with a doll on the table, what had happened to David. She asked Christian over and over before he quietly said "I pushed him into a book shelf". Biannela told police that David had fallen and that was how he had been hurt. After David died, a warrant for Biannela's arrest for the charge of aggravated manslaughter by culpable negligence was file and she was arrested and charged for not calling 911 when she returned home that day.

When Police searched the home, they found a laptop computer that had several searches throughout the day about what to do when a person is knocked out. While David was dying, Biannela was online:

"In between times Susana was searching about unconsciousness, she also download music,
searched for popular screen savers and logged on to YouTube"
Detectives Report

David was taken to the hospital and arrived at 5:25 p.m. and his injuries were so bad that he was life flighted to Shands Jascksonville Hospital and sent to the trauma unit. Reports say that his eyes were rolled back and he had no eye contact or movement of his body at all and that he had a cast on his leg which had been broken, his skull was also fractured. Life support was turned off two days later and Doctors said that his life might have been saved if he had been treated sooner.
Biannela said she was in the kitchen when David got hurt and then she changed her story and said she was not even home and that she told Christian to lie about what happened.

Biannela's Lawyer, Shawn Arnold, said that there was no way to prove who had done the searches on that computer, because it was Christian's laptop that had been used for internet searches pointing out that the first medical web site that had been searched was called kidshealth.org, a child friendly site:

"This is his computer, that's all I'm going to say. It's the states burden to prove their
case beyond a reasonable doubt"

Assistant State Attorney, Mark Caliel said that searches on that computer also lead to a bank and wondered why a child would be worrying about banking matters.

Public Defender Mark Shirk was not at all surprised that the blame was being placed on Christian:

"I'm sure that's just the beginning of blame she'll try to shift to her own child"

After the interview with Christian was over, on the television, I saw a man walk in with shackles and say to him:

"It's time to go buddy. I need you to stand up, I gotta put these on you"

Christian seemed confused and didn't know what was being asked of him, his face showed fear as the man said I gotta put these on you, stand up Buddy. Christian stood up and the man took his hands and put the shackles on him.

Christian turned out to be the youngest person to be charged with first degree murder in Jacksonville. As it turned out, two months before his death, David had suffered a broken leg and his mother said he was hurt on the jungle gym. Prosecutors claim that it wasn't just a lie, but that it was also a warning sign about the abuse this child was suffering in his home. After an indictment was handed down by a grand jury, State Attorney Angela Corey said:

"It is disturbing, but when you know you have to balance the safety of the other children in
the home and in the community, it is not so disturbing"


David

The show I watched showed how Christian was taken to an adult jail, at the age of only 12 years old, he was placed in isolation for three weeks, 23 hours a day. Christian was facing adult charges and it had people wondering if he was fully aware of what he had done:

"Especially if it's a beating death, you could argue that the child did not have the intent to
kill, which would be necessary even for a second degree murder. Or that the child was not
capable of the cool thinking beforehand that's implied by the notion of premeditation"
Robert Batey - Professor Of Criminal Law

David had died of a fractured skull, with bleeding on his brain and bruising to his left eye and nose. State Attorney Mark Caliel was going to prosecute this case and though he couldn't go into much detail about the case, he did say:

"It was something that was done with a lot of reflection. It's a tragic set of events to say the least"

I don't know that I agree that a child that young could think about doing something like that, almost planning it and then carry it out. I just don't know what to think in this case, I just know that video of this child showed him scared and confused about what was going on, speaking quietly after being asked questions several times.

Director of the Criminal Justice Program, Christopher Slobogin said that there are states that do no allow this kind of a charge for children this age, but Florida laws allow for it:

"Even in Florida, kids this young are rarely prosecuted in adult court, even for crimes this serious"

Luckily Christian was not facing the death penalty because he was so young, though he was facing life without parole. Documents filed with the court stated that Christian had sexually assaulted other children, including one of his siblings as well as killing the kitten and Prosecutors used that as leverage to say that Christian displayed deviant behaviors in the past, in order to keep in the adult jail he was in. A Judge ruled against them and Christian was moved to a juvenile facility.

Prosecutors say that Christian admitted that he had slammed his brothers head on to a book shelf, to kill him:

"He said that he picked up his younger brother and pushed him into the book case. He said that
his brother was bleeding and unresponsive so he carried him to the bed and called his mother.
Christian denied any plans or intent to kill his brother. He seemed rather defensive about discussing
what triggered his anger. He talked about having flashbacks of the abuse by his stepfather as a motive
for this offense"

Prosecutors Mark Caliel and Angela Corey had filed papers against Public Defender Matt Shirks request to allow for Christian to await his trial in a juvenile facility, they wanted this child to stay with the adult offenders, though I can't figure out why. Luckily Judge Donald Moran didn't hesitate to move him to where he belong, with other children, though he would still be tried as an adult, which makes no sense to me. Jail Chief Tara Wildes said:

"The point is, there's an inability to treat him as an adult. I don't even know if this boy
is guilty. He's presumed innocent. I'm just uncomfortable holding him in isolation for
360 days"

Lawyers for Christian said that he would do better in a juvenile facility where he could have access to therapists and education, saying that he was a product of his abusive stepfather and the way he was raised, that prison would do him no good, he needs help to be rehabilitated.

On March 28, 2012, 26 year old Biannela Susana plead guilty in the death of David and admitted that she neglected to take care of him properly. Biannela plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter and was facing 13 to 30 years in prison.  It was possible that she would be called as a witness when Christian went to court:

"We're pleased with the plea because it's the first step toward achieving justice for David"
Mark Caliel



Biannela replied to the Judges asking her if she was pleading guilty because she WAS guilty by saying it was in her best interest. Shawn Arnold said that she was worried about her son and hopes for the best for him.

In November of 2012 a charge that had been against Christian for sexual assault, which involved his five year old brother, was dropped. The charge was dropped after Judge Mallory Cooper had thrown out his statements to the Police as well as a lack of physical evidence and conflicting statements from his half brother. Christian's Lawyers had asked for the charge of first degree murder to be thrown out because the guidelines for sentencing would require those who are convicted of first degree murder to face either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders to be sentenced ot life without parole.

Also in that same month, it was decided that Christian would face life without parole for what happened to David. A group of Lawyers heard about Christian case and decided to represent him pro bono and were trying to have the charges dropped, but they were unsuccessful and he was going to be charged as an adult.

Luckily, terms were met that allowed Christian to plead guilty as a juvenile to manslaughter and aggravated battery. The plea agreement means that Christian would be released after seven years, when he was 19 years old in the year 2018, if he complies with all of the conditions set down which include him continuing his education while in prison.

When Christian is released, he will be on probation for eight years and must stay away from his siblings if they choose not to have contact with him and he will not be allowed to spend any unsupervised time with children under the age of 16 years old, he also has to be looking for or be employed if possible.  If he complies with all of these conditions, probation will only last for five years. If he violates his probation conditions, he will be sentenced under the guidelines for an adult. Defense Attorney Hank Coxe read the plea agreement in court. I do not normally post pictures of the people who kill children, but in this case, I am so torn about how I feel about this young man and what happened, I am posting two pictures of Christian.

  
Christian on the left, age 12 year olds in court.
Christian on the right, age 14 in court.

But wait, there's a twist in this tragic story. Christian had a lawyer in the beginning who feels he got the REAL story about what happened that day, which is why he turned down the first plea bargain which was offered to Christian:

"100% I believe that he's an innocent boy. I think he's covering up for his mother. Let
me tell you what Christian told me, he woke up to his mother screaming and yelling
in a fit of rage and when he came to and saw what she was doing , she was beating David
with what he thought was a hairbrush or some other object that was like a hairbrush and
it went on for several seconds and she got up, took off and disappeared. She came
home, she was crying hysterically, very upset, even used the word that she seemed
remorseful, like he was trying to stick up for her"
Matt Shirk

Christian said that his mother him if he called the Police, she would be taken away and he'd never see her again. She used the fact that they had always had a special bond because she had given birth to him at the age of only 12 years old. Biannela told Christian that all of that would be gone if he called the Police. On the show they played video of Christian in the interrogation room, Christian is nervous, looking out the door to see if anyone is coming and then he sits down and starts what appears to be practicing what he's going to say, as though he had been TOLD what to say, he even tries to make hand gestures to go along with what he's saying. Matt Shirk says on the show that this is what his mother told him to say that he wanted to make sure he got it right. Though he allowed Matt to speak about what he had told him that day, Christian never told anyone else and never spoke about it in court.

Biannela later sent a letter to Christian when she heard about his plea deal, encouraging him to take the deal, telling him that he will get out while he is still young, that he will be able to go to college and live his life. It is quite obvious to me, from what Matt was told by Christian, that this woman killed David and then talked her son Christian in to taking the blame for her so that she wouldn't have to go to prison. The reports said that David had 12 skull fractures, that would be more consistant with being hit in the head with an object than being pushed in to a book shelf a few times.

In July of 2013, a hearing was held where Biannela's Lawyers were trying to say she should be sentenced to time served and a probation period while Prosecutors were saying she should get 15 years. It was said that Biannela would have a job waiting for her when she got out, spending two years in a half way house where she would get parenting education and life skills counseling and at the end of her two years she would be hired. President Lawand Ravoira said that she had met Biannela and that she feels she doesn't belong in prison:

"I've come to realize the incredible potential the Biannela has. She needs intervention
and treatment, not prison"

Jacqueline Brown, a Psychologist, said that Biannela was a victim of post traumatic stress disorder that dates back to when her husband shot himself in front of the children. State Attorney Mark Caliel said that she could get treatment in prison and then go to the half way house while Jacqueline said that PSTD becomes worse when a person goes to prison.

Prosecutors said that Biannela failed to protect her child because she didn't take him to the hospital. David Wells said Biannela didn't understand how badly David was hurt:

"She thought her son would be fin. That's why she packed his clothes and had his favorite
food ready because she thought he'd be hungry when he woke up"

David Wells also said that what she did could be explained by what she had been through in her life. Having been abused by her own mother, raped and had a baby at age 12, she ended up in foster care with Christian who was molested in front of her. Married at the age of 18, having three more children and then watching her husband kill himself:

"She tried to be a good mother at 12 years old and didn't have the life skills. But she is not a
threat to anyone if released"

Reports say that Biannela gave up her remaining children and had her tubes tied so she would not have any  more children.

In August of 2014, it was reported that Biannela, who was 27 years old by then, was given a suspended sentence with probation for ten years. Biannela would go to the Hubbard House for 90 days and would then to go Community Corrections for two years and she would be required to be involved in Psychological programs and would be employed by the Delores Barr Weaver Center for at least three years after leaving the Hubbard house.

Biannela would not be allowed to contact her remaining children nor would she be allowed to talk to Christian without permission from his lawyers.

Mark Caliel said that Biannela had done nothing but try to save herself and after he sentencing he said:

"I think we have to turn out focus and attention to the victim. David Galarriago and his surviving
siblings, who were victims in this case as well"

Defense experts as well as family members admitted that Biannela had been wrong to not get help for David, but that she had not meant any harm to come to him:

"We all make mistakes and some of us make bigger mistakes than others. But as the
Bible says, let any who have not sinned be the first to throw a rock. Who are we do judge
her based solely on our perceptions of the accident. I think this is what the family wanted,
what the family prayed for and it's  just God's blessing on David's birthday"
Jessica Callow - Biannela's half sister

Site Creators Note: I have said time and time again that people should NOT use what happens to them in life as an excuse to abuse and hurt other people. In the case of Christian, I find my feelings to be slightly different. Christian was a child when this happened and his life really had been filled with negative, he knew violence and his mother never did anything to get him help to deal with that in any other way, he dealt with it in the way he knew how, with more violence with his mother trying to make excuses for him. Christian, from what he said in the first interview with Matt, did NOT kill his brother, he was taking the fall for a selfish piece of trash mother who didn't want to go to jail and would sacrifice her first born child in order to stay out of jail.

Now on to Biannela. I feel badly for what she went through in her life, I honestly do, however, she was an adult, she could have made the choice to get help for herself and her children, she chose NOT do to do that. She chose to hide what her son did and make believe nothing bad was taking place. Christian was not made to take responsibility for his actions, so he didn't know any better. This "mother" was not unlike many others who chose to allow things to happen and not try to change them.  If she gets out and becomes a better person, then good for her, but the time to act was when she realized that things were NOT right with Christian. This "mother" made a sacrifice of her child in order to save herself from going to jail. She threw her son under the bus, but because she had coached him so well, that son thought the right thing to do was to admit to something he never did.

This page was created on October 21, 2014
Death occurred in the state of Iowa


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