On December 20, 2011, Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of mortgage fraud. She also agreed to help prosecutors in exchange for dropping the other charges. Four days later, on Christmas Eve, Hernandez wrote a four-page letter in which she said she had lost 40 pounds in four months and claimed FDC officials were ignoring her worsening symptoms. "My right breast is hard like a rock and dark like I had hit it with something," she wrote. "They have sent me a note declining my request to get a sonogram.

"When I told the Dr. of my problems and that I need to be able to eat [organic food] his answer was: 'You lost a lot of weight? Tell the secret to the fat ones in the unit,'" she wrote. "I understand that I am in jail but do I have any way of surviving in these conditions? Can anybody help me?"

Hernandez was supposed to see a rheumatologist every 45 days to monitor her lupus, but she never saw one. "Her condition does not rise to a level of severity where she can jump in front of the line of other defendants," prosecutors explained.

Hernandez's brother, Manuel Cedeño, and mother, Elsa Peña Nadal, hold a picture of her.
Michael E. Miller
Hernandez's brother, Manuel Cedeño, and mother, Elsa Peña Nadal, hold a picture of her.

Fellow inmates, at least, noticed Hernandez's declining health. Isis Torres, a nurse sentenced to 18 months at the FDC for Medicare fraud, remembers being shocked at how frail Hernandez seemed. "She was in a lot of pain," Torres says.

In April 2012, Hernandez's family fired DeFabio and hired attorney Seitles. "She looked sickly," he says of seeing Hernandez for the first time. "Her fingers were blue. She looked very undernourished, extremely skinny."

Seitles immediately requested a bond hearing before federal Judge Robert Scola. As a first-time nonviolent offender, Hernandez could easily be released on house arrest or at least transferred to another facility, he reasoned. Hernandez's family was hopeful.

"My mom takes care of me and I take care of her," wrote Giulianna, then 14, in a letter to Scola. "I can't, nor do I want, to think about all the pain she's going through being in the FDC without being able to stick to her diet and have access to her medications. Point is my mom needs [to be] home, for her sake and mine."

Seitles presented evidence of Hernandez's medical history, including her disability status from the U.S. government. "This isn't... some scheme to get out of the FDC," he told Scola during the June 20 hearing. Instead, Hernandez was genuinely sick: She had lost nearly a third of her body weight, was throwing up blood, hadn't menstruated since arriving at the FDC, and was at risk for organ failure, Seitles argued.

Thomas, the FDC clinical director, ridiculed the idea that Hernandez's life was at risk. "Those things that you just heard are an embellishment," she told Scola. "None of what [was] just cited to you is true." Thomas insisted Hernandez was getting proper care. "Someone who's in renal failure would be dead," she said.

Scola sided with the prosecutors. Instead of releasing Hernandez, he determined she was a flight risk and denied her bond.

"They treated her like she was a narco trafficker about to flee the country," says Manuel Cedeño, Hernandez's brother, who testified on her behalf. "Why would a sick woman leave the country where she has health insurance and a teenage daughter to live in a Third World country?"

In October, Hernandez was sentenced to 40 months in prison, of which she had already served 14. Suddenly facing two years without her mother, Giulianna fell into a depression. Her grades plummeted, and she stopped playing the piano because it reminded her of her mom.

Hernandez was also falling apart. She began losing hair. When her family came to visit her, she used a jailhouse coffee concoction as makeup to cover the splotches on her skin. "She didn't want to worry anyone," Cedeño says.

In private, however, Hernandez was panicking. Her calcified breast implant had turned into an open sore. Thomas had suggested transferring Hernandez to a medical facility, but Hernandez was afraid that exposing her depleted immune system to other sick inmates would be deadly.

On December 4, 2012, Hernandez wrote Judge Scola begging for lenience. She asked him to put her under house arrest where she could "stop [taking] all these steroids that are destroying my good cells and organs."

"Please, your honor, give me only 15 minutes... to show you what I have and that I am not making this up," she wrote. A week later, she sent another letter to the judge. It's unclear if Scola replied. He did not answer New Times' requests for comment.

Hernandez last spoke to her family December 23, 2012. When Cedeño emailed her on Christmas Eve, she didn't answer. When he tried again the next day: silence.

Seitles also began to worry. Another FDC inmate told him she had seen Hernandez taken to a hospital. But when Seitles asked prison officials where his client was, they refused to answer. He sent three letters demanding to know where she was held. On January 7, he finally discovered she was shackled to a bed at Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami. Seitles obtained permission to visit her January 10. It would be too late.

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23 comments
12345
12345

Keskea, dear friend! rest in peace! You never did anything wrong - this system killed you because you've been doing better, then anyone else. The judge Scola - I have no comments... Don't want to be charged with accusing him. The most unfair  person became a judge... 


12345
12345

Keskea, dear friend! rest in peace! You never did anything wrong - this system killed you because you've been doing better, then anyone else. The judge Scola - I have no comments... Don't want to be charged with accusing him. The most unfair  person became a judge... 


tisvulcan
tisvulcan

Yes, she was a criminal but think about this: if you hit an animal with your vehicle and it doesn't die immediately, what do you do? Keskea was a human being. Why do we, as a free nation with all the rights and privileges we have, treat our pets better than we do other human beings? We have a law called "double jeopardy" that makes it illegal to try someone for the same crime twice. Sounds to me like Keskea was being made to suffer two sentences for her crime. This puts a travesty.

wndjo21
wndjo21

We are suppose to have the best system in the.world yet such neglect?

wndjo21
wndjo21

It just goes to show how we allways claim to have the best systom in the world yet this happens all the time all over the country county state and federal jails

Amanda Drewniak
Amanda Drewniak

I feel for the Woman's family. However, there are millions without proper healthcare or insurance and people bitch about our tax dollars going to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (for dumb asses it is known as Obamacare- which is a whole other calamity). Our Tax dollars go to prisoner healthcare more often for all sorts of ailments and non emergency/cosmetic treatment before it goes to a law abiding citizen in need.

Omar Ghaffar
Omar Ghaffar

As a criminal defense lawyer I read this article and think that awareness needs to be raised about these issues.

yellow
yellow

I am sick to death over this story. I am appalled that the Judge showed such inhumanity. He had an opportunity to do the right thing and he didnt. How anyone can take the word of a Doctor that works in the prison system is beyond me. That woman deserved better than that kind of treatment. I am so sorry for her daughter. House arrest would have been the logical option in this case. I for one have learned a lesson from this that I will carry with me in decisions that I make in the future. Judge Scola is a discrace.

Vargaz
Vargaz

@edfrommoca - Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just wiped my ass with yours. 

disturbing
disturbing

Holy hell. Some more people relishing in human mistreatment. This is incredible. I can imagine these people masturbating to mugshots online or something equally sick.

I assume there must be some sort of underlying psychological issue coupled with self-hate projected on the criminals by these folks. Whatever it is, something's not all right up there.

sac1975
sac1975

mortgage fraud should not get someone a death sentence. Yes, she committed a crime, but that doesn't mean she was not entitled to medical care.  This story is so sad,  my thoughts are with the family and I hope the FPC has to pay!! Money can not replace this woman, but it can help the daughter.  Murders get better treatment than this!!

pez.castilla
pez.castilla

Her crimes did not merit a death penalty. 

pez.castilla
pez.castilla

@disturbing Yep, you think we've gotten somewhere with humanity...until you read the comments. Did she break the law, absolutely. But her crimes did not merit the death penalty. I think there are people who simply do not feel empathy.  

pez.castilla
pez.castilla

@sac1975 Amen. the lack of empathy is disgusting. I don't know if it's misogyny at play, or simple sociopaths being their adorable selves. 

Vargaz
Vargaz

@sac1975 you're right they have no excuse for their negligence. 

pez.castilla
pez.castilla

@Vargaz what gives you the right to call her a bitch? she was a daughter, a sister, and a mother. She committed a crime, but she did not deserve to die in jail. 

jcmrls1293
jcmrls1293

@hammid00 I know she and she died for neglicted treatment at FDC becausse in several times she claimed for help on her diet and treatment and nothink happen .Poor girl and family it was horrible.Jesus bless her Family '

Vargaz
Vargaz

@pez.castilla she did not get the death penalty. her crimes landed her in prison and the medical staff killed her. they should be charged with her death. had she not committed those crimes she would not have been there. 

Vargaz
Vargaz

@pez.castilla @sac1975 some have no empathy for people that hurt others by criminal acts. that doesn't make them what you want them to be. Sure it s a shame she's dead but so are many others who weren't in prison. 

Vargaz
Vargaz

@pez.castilla @Vargaz i said greedy bitch, not bitch. no one deserves to die in prison but those sentenced to death. prison didn't kill her being there did, had she not committed the crimes - stop making excuses, its too late. and where were all you "friends" when she was committing these crimes? Did you make her stop? Obviously not. 

 
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