MIAMI – (CBS4) – When an 11-year-old boy played hide-and-seek in Opa-Locka, he thought he found the perfect hiding spot: underneath an abandoned sofa trashed next to a dumpster.
At that same moment, a 49-year-old man with a gun wanted to shoot a couple of rounds to ring in the New Year.
The result of those two actions came to a tragic conclusion on the night of New Years Day of 2008 when Zenon Fernandez fired into the sofa, heard an agonizing moan and realized he had shot a child.
The case went before a jury and in November, they returned a guilty verdict against Fernandez. He was charged with manslaughter and Friday a judge sentenced him to spend the next 10 years behind bars.
On the night of New Year’s Day 2008, police say Fernandez parked his car on Port Said Road armed with a semi-automatic gun and a desire to test it.
Fernandez shot into the abandoned sofa, believing it would be a safer alternative than firing into the air, his attorney Jeffrey Feiler said.
Joshua’s family members had pleaded with the state attorney’s office to increase the charges. But the state said manslaughter was the toughest charge the law allows.
“For manslaughter all you have to do is show that your actions were reckless, that you didn’t take ordinary care,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle soon after Fernandez was charged. “Which is unlike your other murder cases, with other murder cases you have to be either be doing a felony, a robbery where somebody dies, or you actually intended to kill somebody.”
Family members spoke to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench at the time and expressed the pain of losing Joshua.
“We saw my little brother dead on the floor,” said Marvin Arroliga. “I would do anything to bring my brother back, but I can’t.”
By the time help arrived, Joshua was dead. That help did not apparently come from Fernandez, whom police say ran after he realized what he had done. He changed his mind, and later turned himself in to the North Miami police department.
Fernandez’s attorney Jeffrey Feiler said it was an unforeseeable accident
“When bullets are flying they go a long, long way and there’s no telling what’s going to happen,” he said. “A ricochet, where it’s going to end up… who it’s going to hit”
But prosecutors said he committed a criminal act, even if he didn’t intend to hit anyone.
“It’s unacceptable to be shooting a loaded gun where people could get hurt and people do,” assistant state attorney Scott Warfman said. “People do get hurt.”
Ironically the Arroliga family knew the suspect and his son.
“I used to say to him and stuff; I was very respectful to him,” said Marvin Arroliga. “I knew his son; his son used to come to my house and play all the time.”
Marcos Enareno, Joshua’s father, said through a translator, “I feel bad. I just hope that justice does what it deserves for the man that did it. He’s an irresponsible man. If it was up to me, they could give him all his life in jail. My son represented my life to me. I still don’t believe it.”
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)