Michael Hernandez, the infamous killer who at age 14 viciously butchered a teenage classmate in the bathroom of Southwood Middle School, has died in prison, records show.
He was 31 years old. Hernandez had been at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City, and it was not immediately clear how he died on Thursday.
It was February 2004 when Hernandez lured his friend, Jaime Gough, also 14, into a bathroom stall at Southwood Middle in Palmetto Bay, a suburban city south of Miami. He stabbed Jaime more than 40 times in a case that shocked South Florida and the nation.
“He was an evil evil person who showed no remorse,” said retired Miami-Dade prosecutor Gail Levine, who oversaw Hernandez’s sentencing hearing. “Finally, justice was completed.”
Jorge Gough, Jaime’s father, said on Saturday he was “shocked” to receive the news from prosecutors. “I was not expecting this at all,” Jorge Gough said.
Jaime would today be 32, Jorge Gough said. “We talk about our son a lot, not in a sad way. We miss him, and the big question is: what would he be today?” he said.
The Florida Department of Corrections early Sunday said that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with corrections’ Office of the Inspector General, would investigate Hernandez’s death. The Medical Examiner’s Office will eventually release the results of an autopsy.
“Due to the open and active investigation, we are unable to provide any additional information,” a statement said.
WFOR-CBS4’s Jim Defede, late Saturday, cited a source in reporting that there were no signs of foul play, and that video surveillance captured Hernandez collapsing inside the prison.
A jury in 2008 found Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder, rejecting Hernandez’s claim that he was legally insane at the time of the killing.
At the trial, jurors heard that Hernandez became fixated on becoming a serial killer, even penning a list in his journal of other people he wanted to murder. The day of the crime in 2004, Hernandez tried unsuccessfully to coax another student into the bathroom at the school.
He succeeded with Jaime, stabbing the bespectacled boy in the bathroom stall then waiting to check to see if his friend was dead. To police, Hernandez first denied any involvement. But then, in clinical detail, he described how he slit his friend’s throat then stashed the knife in a hidden pocket in his backpack before heading to his first-period class.
Hernandez was also convicted of attempted murder for trying to kill the other student, Andre Martin, who today is a Miami-Dade police detective. Martin learned of the death on Saturday, when an automated prison notification system left him a voice message to inform him that Hernandez’s “custody status” had changed.
Martin, now 30, checked the prison system’s online database and saw that he was listed as “deceased” and appeared to have died on Thursday. Martin said he had mixed feelings.
“My continued condolences for Jaime Gough’s parents, and the entire Gough family,” Martin said. “And the Hernandez family — they were not the ones who committed a crime and they did lose a family member.”
Hernandez was originally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But he was granted a new sentencing hearing after the U.S. Supreme Court banned automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted or murder.
In October 2015, Hernandez returned to Miami-Dade circuit court. Prosecutors argued to keep him in prison for life. Among their evidence: chilling recordings of jail calls from Hernandez describing serial killers, joking about his inability to cry and listening to heavy metal music laden with violent lyrics and imagery.
Miami-Dade CIrcuit Judge John Schlesinger agreed to send him back to prison for life. Schlesinger said he was disturbed by the jail calls played during the hearing.
“I did not anticipate rainbows and unicorns and puppies but what I received was truly grotesque,” Schlesinger said of the phone calls, adding: “It paints a picture of a person fascinated by killers, by violent movies, violent music lyrics, violent books and violent current events.”