Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Focus on Rehabilitation for Cristian

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Focus on Rehabilitation for Cristian

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

To hear Biannela Susana tell it, her son, Cristian Fernandez, had dreams.

Back in September, she told The Times-Union that the 12-year-old had talked of becoming an air traffic controller. Or a history professor. Or a football player.

All were within the realm of possibility. Cristian was, after all, a straight-A student.

But the way things are shaping up right now, Cristian's nightmarish childhood may wind up destroying any chances of him ever being able to act on his dreams.

Things shouldn't be that way.

Last year Cristian became the youngest person in Jacksonville's history to be charged with first-degree murder. He's accused of killing his 2-year-old half-brother, David Galarraga, by repeatedly slamming his head into a bookshelf.

Susana, 25, is charged with aggravated manslaughter for negligence in the case; she apparently spent two hours searching the Internet for solutions to treat David's injuries instead of calling paramedics.

Not only did a grand jury indict Cristian on first-degree murder charges, it also recently indicted him on a charge of sexual battery against his 5-year-old half-brother.

Horrific, yes. But horror and dysfunction are what Cristian had been living with for most of his young life. It's what he learned.

He at least deserves a chance to unlearn it.

Cristian was born to Susana when she was 12. His early life was rife with instability, especially since a mother that young is more prone to view her oldest child as a tiny adult and not as a child.

As a result, he was saddled with adult tasks. He was isolated from neighbors who tried to be friendly and who maybe could have given him a glimpse of what a functional family looks like.

Cristian also was subjected to beatings from his stepfather, Luis Galarraga-Blanco, who fatally shot himself in the head when the state Department of Children and Families tried to question him about the child's swollen eye. …

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