Code Red

For those left behind after the brutal murder of fourteen-year-old Jaime Gough, the emotional lockdown lingers

"Bob said, öThere's a boy and he's dead and he's in the bathroom.' At that point we didn't know if it was a student or a teacher who did it," she says.

Solly went to the school's main office and, over the public address system, announced a lockdown — "Code Red," an emergency procedure to keep classrooms locked with children inside in the event of potential danger at the school. Police and district administrators flooded the building. The office was evacuated, its workers corralled into the teachers lounge. They put the student aides in the photocopy room to shield them from what was going on.

By the end of the day Lunior would be interviewed by three sets of detectives, school police, and school attorneys. But in the immediate aftermath, emergency crews arrived and hustled him from the bathroom. Unsure of what else to do, Lunior went, as scheduled, to teach a class on substance abuse. He played a video.

The murder at the school propelled Justin Koren to move back to Miami, take a job teaching at Southwood, and write and direct Defining Code Red
The murder at the school propelled Justin Koren to move back to Miami, take a job teaching at Southwood, and write and direct Defining Code Red
Kathy Hernandez says her son, Michael, deserves mental health treatment
Kathy Hernandez says her son, Michael, deserves mental health treatment


Click the following links to view Michael Hernandez's journal entries: Excerpt one and Excerpt two

"I don't think I could have done it otherwise," he says.

Solly was asked to be present as police began to interview Jaime's closest friends. She watched as Jaime's mother, Maria Gough, was escorted into the office. She didn't speak English, so a Spanish-speaking counselor was found to speak with her.

Maria Gough collapsed upon receiving the news. "You heard this just god-awful wailing," Solly remembers sadly. "It was horrible."

She says Jaime's body was removed in the afternoon. She guesses it was carried out the back, away from the eyes of the media swarming outside. "I clearly remember helicopters droning overhead for weeks. I couldn't stand it. It reminded me of Hurricane Andrew, all those army transports."

Solly stayed at the school until late, helping manage an impromptu meeting with parents. She arrived home in time for the 10:00 p.m. news.

"When they said who it was (that was accused of the murder) I said, 'Oh my god. Oh my god!' I couldn't believe it." Solly had sat in as a counselor while detectives were interviewing students. And every time police had asked kids who Jaime's best friend was, they had answered the same thing: Michael Hernandez.

On February 3, 2004, Kathy Hernandez left for work before her son went to school. As usual, he rode to Southwood with neighbors. The latex gloves she had purchased, ostensibly for a science project, were folded in his backpack, along with a gravity knife given to him by his father. ("My dad has a store, so I asked him for some knives," he later told detectives. "This was before I was going to do this.")

Sometime that morning her husband, Manny, called to tell her that something was wrong at Southwood. His shop, Palmetto Bay Consignment, was near the school, so they agreed he would go to see what was wrong. He found chaos. Parents held back by police tape anxiously called their children on cell phones. A rumor circulated that a child had died, killed by another student. But Manny was told that both sets of parents were inside the school. Since Southwood was on lockdown, he left.

Kathy left work around 3:00 p.m. and was home when the detective called. She was told that Michael may have been a witness to the murder, and that he was being held in a police station in Doral.

"The first thing we thought was that it must have been because he saw something, and how traumatic that could have been for him," she recalls. She picked up Manny at his shop and drove to Doral, where police told them a boy had been killed. She realized only then that it was Jaime who had died.

Everybody had been saying his name the way his parents pronounced it, with the Spanish pronunciation. (His teachers and peers pronounced it "Jamie.") She knew Jaime Gough. Michael had introduced them once when she picked him up from school. Michael had worked on a school project at Jaime's house around Christmas.

Detectives asked the Hernandezes for their social security numbers and address. They asked detectives to see their son. Finally Michael was brought into the room. He had no shoes on, just socks. He said, "I didn't do it," and put his head down on the table.

His parents tried to talk to him. Police warned that anything they said could be used against them in court. Kathy put her hand on her son's arm and asked what had happened. Michael said nothing.

"We still didn't understand. The police said Michael had given several different versions of what had happened," says Kathy Hernandez. These included a story that Jaime was killed by a teenager named "Sangre" ("blood" in Spanish), according to testimony given by Det. Salvatore Garafalo on Tuesday.

"We were still in the mindset that he had seen something. They didn't tell us we should be looking for an attorney."

The police told the couple that Michael had to go to the juvenile detention center overnight. The worried parents asked if he would be safe. They were ushered out thinking he was still going to come home.

Michael later admitted that Sangre was imaginary and confessed to the murder.

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