Fla. - The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office interrogation of
then-12-year-old Cristian Fernandez, who pleaded guilty this month to
manslaughter and aggravated battery in the death of his 2-year-old half
brother, was released to Channel 4 on Monday.
The interview and confession recorded by detectives
were ultimately thrown out by a judge after she ruled the boy hadn't
fully understood his Miranda rights or what he was doing when he waived
Fernandez was arrested and interrogated in March 2011.
He was charged with murder and became Duval County's youngest-ever
The interrogation video lasts about an hour and 24
minutes in its entirety, but Fernandez sits in the interview room for
more than 20 minutes before a female detective comes in. They then go
through his Miranda rights a short time later.
"You don't have to talk to me," Detective Nechelle
Soehlig tells Fernandez. "I want you to talk to me, but you don't have
to talk to me, OK?"
About six minutes later, the boy, using a doll, shows
the detective how he broke David Galarriago's leg in an incident in
"Did you hear a snap?" the detective asked.
"Well, sort of," Fernandez said. "He started crying,
so I stopped."
The two then started talking about the toddler's fatal
head injuries. Fernandez said Galarriago was carrying books over his
head when the books fell, then Galarriago fell. The detective told
Fernandez repeatedly that couldn't be the truth.
There were long pauses in which they just looked at
each other. She asked him to tell the truth, to do the right thing for
Galarriogo's sake, and that he didn't have to be scared. She said, "You
feel bad about what happened tonight?" And he answered yes.
Then Fernandez confesses.
"Did you hit him with something?" the detective asked.
"No," Fernandez said.
"What happened?" the detective asked.
"I pushed him against the book shelf," Fernandez said.
"How did you do that? Why'd you push him? Were you
angry?" the detective asked.
"Yes, about something my stepdad did to me," Fernandez
"Why tonight?" the detective asked.
"Because I was thinking about it," Fernandez said.
"Why'd you take it out on your little brother? Was it
because he was there?" the detective asked.
"Yes," Fernandez said.
Fernandez, again using a doll, showed the detective
how he shoved Galarriogo into the bookcase. He said the boy was
bleeding from the nose and mouth, so he carried him to the bed.
"What was your mom doing when this happened?" the
"I don't know," Fernandez said.
"Was she home?" the detective asked.
"No, she was driving, taking my other brother to
school. I'm not sure where she was," Fernandez said.
"Does she make you babysit your brothers and sisters a
lot?" the detective asked.
"Yes," Fernandez said.
He said after he shoved Galarriogo's head into the
shelf two times, the boy didn't move but was breathing.
The detective leaves the room about 58 minutes into
the recording, then returns about 12 minutes later. The two review
"Did you know what you did was wrong?" she asked.
"Mm, hm," Fernandez said. "I felt bad because then I
realized what I'd actually done, because I really wasn't thinking about
what I was doing when I pushed him. I was just thinking about myself."
He went on to say he was worried about what was going
to happen to Galarriogo, that he wasn't worried about himself.
Fernandez asked if his brother didn't wake up, would
that mean he won't make it. He asked if the doctors could wake him up.
The detective said they couldn’t do that, and she didn't know what was
going to happen.
Last year, Judge Mallory Cooper last year granted a
defense motion to dismiss the videotaped interview and confession as
evidence because police were wrong to interrogate him without another
adult present -- that his consent as a 12-year-old was not legally
Gene Nichols, a defense attorney not related to the
case, says either way, the would likely have ended in a plea agreement.
"There's no question that by the judge tossing this,
the judge had determined that this young man did not have the mental
ability to understand what his rights were," Nichols said. "Whether or
not the statements are consistent, we don't know, and we won't know
unless we can ever find out physically what happened in that room."
Fernandez, now 14, will remain jailed until his 19th