Baldomero Fernandez Trial

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Baldomero Fernandez Trial
The following article appeared in The Miami Herald on Saturday, November 21, 1987 on page 41:
by Christine Evans Herald Staff Writer

Priests, police and teachers begged for leniency Friday, but a Dade judge sent Baldomero Fernandez - civic leader, churchgoer and murderer - to prison anyway. Circuit Judge Ronald Friedman called the case "one of the most tragic, difficult and unusual to come before me." Then he sentenced the frail defendant to seven years in prison with no chance of release until October 1989.

"I can never be happy after this" his wife, Lourdes, said later. "All that has happened, it is too much." A first-time offender at age 63, the popular West Miami man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the death of his next-door neighbor, James Escoto. The killing put an end to their three-year feud. The heart of the dispute was a 12-foot-wide swath of land. In a courtroom packed with the victim's family and dozens of his own supporters, Fernandez confessed to the killing but not to intent. He claimed temporary insanity.

"It never crossed my mind to do that," Fernandez told the judge. "The way I feel now, it's miserable. Sometimes I wish I could be the dead person." For Fernandez, the sentence was a victory of sorts, a chance to avoid trial and, possibly, death in Florida's electric chair. (continued on page 2c)

Originally arrested for second-degree murder, a grand jury last year upped the charge to first-degree, and Fernandez was jailed. Under the terms of Friday's plea, he faced between three and nearly 12 years in prison. For Escoto's family, seven years wasn't enough. "This man took a life, an important life, my son's life," said Olga Herrera. "He should go to trial. He should pay. Seven years is nothing. For a life, it is nothing."

Prosecutor Michael Band said he agreed to the plea bargain because he wasn't sure he could win the case in trial. Fernandez, he said, is a "sympathetic" character, a good man at heart. To the judge, attorneys described the strange, sad relationship that led to Escoto's death one year ago. For three years, police had made frequent trips to the Flagami neighborhood where the two men lived side by side. Eight, 10, 15 times they were called to settle disputes. Each time they left, unable to cool the rivalry. The hatred deepened.

"The events speak of the failings and failures of people and the system," Band said. "Two neighbors torn apart . . . two neighbors who appeared almost schizophrenic in their relationship with each other. Two seemingly mature people who took what seems like sadistic pleasure in creating a hell for one another." Escoto was 30. For a job, he nursed the paralyzed son of former Miami Dolphin linebacker Nick Buoniconti. For fun he liked motorcycling, scuba diving, hunting, fishing, and pets. He kept five black baby chicks in a box, a Burmese python in a cage and a moray eels in a salt water aquarium.

Fernandez was a retired bellhop. He loved his family, his church and his privacy. He volunteered time to the PTA, the Boy Scouts, the carnival at St. Dominic's Catholic Church. At first, the disputes were small. Someone threw eggs at Fernandez' door He blamed Escoto. Escoto stayed up late, threw bottles and shot off guns for fun, Fernandez complained.

Someone slipped an obscene photo into Fernandez' mailbox. His children saw it. Again, he blamed Escoto. Then there was the land, a skinny strip that separated their homes. Fernandez thought it belonged to him. Escoto said, no, it was public property, and he parked his antique Ford truck on it.

On Oct. 4, 1986, attorneys say, Escoto drove wildly across his neighbor's lawn. The older man, in his slippers in his house, got in his own car and gave chase. Then Fernandez stopped to talk with a friend. Escoto approached on foot. He insulted Fernandez. Fernandez pulled a gun. Escoto dared him to shoot. Eventually, Fernandez did. Twice. Escoto ran to find help. A witness says Fernandez finished him off with a blow to the head. Escoto's family told the judge Friday they will never understand. "Jimmy played by the rules," said Dennis Poin, the victim's cousin. "Evidently, Mr. Fernandez could not play by the rules. He played by violence."

But the old friends of Fernandez said that the man who fired the gun was not the man they knew. Fernandez, they said, had been pushed to his limits by Escoto's antics. "I believe that everyone can have a moment in their life when their emotions overrule their better judgement," said a friend, Norma Sanchez. "I think that is what happened to Mr. Fernandez."
Date & Place: in Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida United States
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Baldomero Fernandez
Featured on the ID channel's "And Justice for All", Baldomero Fernandez was convicted of killing his neighbor. See Murderer for more details. The incident was also featured on "Fear Thy Neighbor". See Home's Where the Hearse Is, James Escoto and Baldomero Fernandez. Baldomero Fernandez's parents were Baldomero Fernandez Suarez (born in Spain in 1897 and died in Cuba) and Isabel Arenas Albanes, (1896-1983) born in Cuba died in Miami FL. Baldomero married Maria Ramon (a citizen of the US) on June 30 1956 in Miami FL. Having lived continuously in the US since May, 1948, he applied for naturalization. On his naturalization application, he stated that he was of medium complexion, was 5 ft 8 in tall, and had brown eyes and black hair. He later married Lourdes and they divorced in July, 1991, in Miami-Dade, Florida. See what seems to be a balanced article about Baldomero, his plea bargain, his background and about the neighbor that he killed, James Escoto, at Baldomero Fernandez Trial. See a photo of James Escoto at Baldomero Fernandez - Jimmy Escoto. Another article about the murder is available here In Miami, Criminals Become the Victims as Citizens Fight Back
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