Michael Hernandez: Middle School Murder

posted: 25 June 2021 | categories: Killer Kids, Killer Men

image: Oxygen

Michael Hernandez was only 14 when he killed his classmate, and that classmate was not the only person he tried to kill. He had a hit list and aspirations to become a serial killer.

about the crime(s)

On 2 February, on his 14th birthday, Hernandez attempted to slay classmate Andre Martin.[1]Lyon, Rivy. “14-Year-Old Lures Friend to a Gruesome Death in Middle-School Bathroom.” Medium, 15 May 2021, Medium, … Continue reading Unsuccessful, he tried again the next day. That day, Hernandez lured fourteen-year-old Jaime Gough into a bathroom at the Southwood Middle School, a magnet school that specialized in visual and performing arts in Palmento Bay, Florida. Jaime’s body was found the next day. Later, it was discovered that the boy had been stabbed more than forty times, as well as having his throat slashed. The weapon was found in Hernandez’s backpack, where he’d hidden it before going to class.[2]Sederstrom, Jill. “Florida Man Obsessed With Serial Killers, Who Slit The Throat Of Classmate In Middle School Bathroom At Age 14, Dies In Prison.” Oxygen Crime News, 3 May 2021, Oxygen … Continue reading The body of Jaime Gough was discovered by another student moments after the murder… while Hernandez was still in the restroom, washing his hands. When asked if he’d noticed the body, Hernandez acknowledged that he had, telling the other boy they should report it. But Hernandez, obviously, did not. But the other student did, and the police were called. Hernandez was taken into custody, confessing to it all that night.[3]Lyon, Rivy. “14-Year-Old Lures Friend to a Gruesome Death in Middle-School Bathroom.” Medium, 15 May 2021, Medium, … Continue reading

the story

During the investigation, police discovered Hernandez’s journal, in which his intentions were meticulously noted, to become a serial killer. His target date for the murders was 2 February, his birthday. In that journal was a “planning list” describing his plans behind killing two classmates: the weapons and supplies he’d need, his intention of propping up their bodies on toilets, instructions to himself on how to carry out the murders and the aftermath. Among his supplies were those intended as forensic countermeasures. Another list was titled “hit list.” It included the previous names… as well as his sister’s, written in last-name-first-name-middle-name format.[/fn]Schwartz, Noaki. “TEEN’S JOURNAL DETAILS PLAN TO KILL THREE, INCLUDING SISTER.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 26 Mar. 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2004-03-26-0403251530-story.html.[/fn]

Hernandez confessed to all of it, to planning the murders for well over a week, although only the second attempt was successful. On 2 February, he confessed to luring Andre Martin into the bathroom, and then trying to get him to go into one of the bathroom stalls with him. However, his plan failed when Andre became spooked and left. The next day, he tried again with Jaime Gough, this time sadly succeeding.

Hernandez used a knife with a four-inch blade to stab Jaime, whose defensive wounds should that he tried to fight his killer off. The slash across his throat sliced through his jugular veins and his windpipe. Hernandez also confessed to stabbing Jaime in the face and scalp in order to determine whether or not he was still alive, or if he was dead.[4]Lyon, Rivy. “14-Year-Old Lures Friend to a Gruesome Death in Middle-School Bathroom.” Medium, 15 May 2021, Medium, … Continue reading

mental competency

Upon his arrest, Michael Hernandez underwent a number of psychological evaluations. Dr Job Shaw and Dr. Vanessa Archer examined Hernandez for mental competency, both coming to the conclusion that he did not suffer from any mental illness that would have played a role in his crime. (It’s important to point out here that Dr. Vanessa Archer has a history of controversial complaints against her, some that implicate her neglect in the death/near death of two children, as well as the willful mishandling of other patients in her care.) But Dr. Barry Rosenfeld, a psychologist for the defense, thought that Hernandez could suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, although he didn’t officially diagnose him. Therefore, Hernandez was ruled competent to stand trial.[5]Lyon, Rivy. “14-Year-Old Lures Friend to a Gruesome Death in Middle-School Bathroom.” Medium, 15 May 2021, Medium, … Continue reading

Later, a second competency hearing was held in September of 2008. At this hearing, Dr. Ralph Richardson testified that Hernandez, although having an obsessive compulsive disorder, was still competent. Dr. Archer’s second evaluation concurred that he had a severe obsessive compulsive disorder, chronic depression, and a dysthymic disorder. Once again, he was found competent.[6]Michael HERNANDEZ, Appellant, v. The STATE of Florida, Appellee, No. 3D08–2892, Decided: March 20, 2013

charges, trial, and conviction

Hernandez was indicted as an adult for both first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. For the first charge, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, mandatory in the state of Florida at that time. For the second, he was given an additional, consecutive sentence of thirty years.[7]Associated Press. “Teen Gets Life Sentence in Best Friend’s Murder.” NBC News, 7 Nov. 2008, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna27597174.

In 2016, Hernandez appeared at a resentencing hearing, due to a finding that found mandatory juvenile sentences of life without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional. He was resentenced to a life sentence after evidence was presented to show little change in him. Among the evidence presented were recorded prison phone calls, showing his continued obsessions with dark and violent topics.

A new law at the time in Florida allows Hernandez to have another hearing after twenty-five years in prison, in order to review his potential release, in 2029.[8]Ovalle, David. “Life in Prison Again for Southwood Middle Killer Michael Hernandez.” Miami Herald, 22 Feb. 2016, Miami Herald, … Continue reading

the aftermath

However, he will not have that chance. On 29 April 2021, Michael Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell at the Columbia Correctional Institution at the age of 31. His death is being investigated, but there are no obvious signs of foul play. There is, however, a possibility of a drug overdose.[9]Sederstrom, Jill. “Florida Man Obsessed With Serial Killers, Who Slit The Throat Of Classmate In Middle School Bathroom At Age 14, Dies In Prison.” Oxygen Crime News, 3 May 2021, Oxygen … Continue reading

the silver lining

Andre Martin, the survivor, remembers that day, 2 February 1990. Hernandez tried to get Andre and Jaime to go into the handicap stall with him. As stated earlier, Martin refused, but Gough did not. However, the school bell rang, and Hernandez, suffering from OCD and focusing on timeliness, didn’t carry out his plan that day, heading to class instead. And Andre didn’t go with him to that bathroom again, although, as we know, Jaime did. Andre credits the fact that he simply forgot to meet them there as saving his life.

And now, years later, Andre Martin is a Miami-Dade police officer while Hernandez spent the rest of his life in prison. He has said that his career choice became clear during the resentencing for Hernandez.[10]Rabin, Charles. “He Escaped a Classmate’s Kill List. It Pushed Him to Become a Police Officer.” The Sacramento Bee, 4 Aug. 2017, The Sacramento Bee, … Continue reading

questions left unanswered

Michael Hernandez was a juvenile when he committed his crime. And, yes, it was discovered that he had some mental illness, but multiple mental health professionals found that these things in no way accounted for his behavior. So how does a boy of thirteen-fourteen get to such a place.

His journal was dark, to be sure. In addition to the murder lists, there were entries about his obsessions with death and physical perfection. He wrote, too, about starting a cult. But there were also many entries that showed Hernandez to be very religious. He read the Bible, worshipped, prayed. Yet this deeply religious ideology is obviously in odds with what he did. But for Hernandez, it wasn’t. On his murder planning list, he included a final notation in his instructions to himself.

“Thank God for success first.”

His hit list also begs the question… what was wrong in his relationship with his sister that landed her on his hit list, the first entry on it? Especially since most described a close relationship with her. And did his relationship with his parents factor into his development somehow, in a negative way?

works cited[+]

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