Bond Reduction Denied for 'Unseen Gangster' Accused of Murdering 21-month-old Stepson
SAN ANGELO, TX -- A 35-year-old San Angelo man indicted on a capital murder charge in the horrific murder of his stepson was denied a request to reduce his $1 million bond in District Court Thursday after four hours of exhausting and sometimes tense testimony.
Andrew 'Andy' Fernandez appeared in court in an orange Tom Green County jail jumpsuit shackled and handcuffed along with his wife, 28-year-old Leslie Moreno for a pretrial hearing before 391st District Judge Brad Goodwin. The pretrial hearing gave prosecutors and defense attorneys an opportunity to schedule further hearings and file motions to set the ground rules for their capital murder trials. Moreno is represented by attorneys Jenny Hensley and Evan Pierce-Jones. Fernandez is represented by Alex Calhoun and Robert Cowie with the Regional Public Defenders for Capital Murder Cases. District Attorney Allison Palmer represents the State of Texas and was joined by Assistant District Attorney Ashley Knight.
Fernandez is accused of murdering 21-month-old Nathaniel 'Nathan' Quezada, Moreno's son and Fernandez's stepson. Paramedics were called to a house on Junius St. in San Angelo on March 8, 2018 when Fernandez placed a call to 911. The toddler was found unresponsive with extensive bruising and appeared to EMT's to be malnourished. Nathan died at the hospital a short time later.
The pretrial hearings lasted about 15 minutes and Moreno was escorted back to jail where she is held in lieu of $1 million bond. Judge Goodwin instructed attorneys to work together to resolve as many issues as possible and he would schedule additional pretrial hearings as needed. Fernandez's attorney told the court the defendant was photographed outside the courthouse shackled, handcuffed and in a jail jumpsuit and filed a motion to allow Fernandez to be brought to the courthouse in civilian clothes and not shackled. Judge Goodwin granted that request. Civilian clothing won't hide the neck and head tattoos visible on Andrew Fernandez.
Fernandez through his attorney filed a motion to reduce his bond because neither he nor his family could afford to make his bond.
That's when prosecutors and defense attorneys dug in and the fireworks began.
Defense attorney Calhoun called Fernandez to the witness stand in his bond reduction hearing. Calhoun led Fernandez through a litany of issues including his work record and his residency. Fernandez said he was living with his mother when he was arrested. Fernandez testified that he dropped out of school in middle school while he attended Edison Jr. High School in San Angelo. Fernandez said he always worked and tried to provide for his children who eventually numbered ten including biological and step children. "I wanted to fight for my kids." Fernandez told the court.
District Attorney Allison Palmer wasted no time in confronting Fernandez on the stand during her cross examination. She asked Fernandez what his screen name was on Facebook. "Who is Lonely Boy? Who is 'Unseen Gangster?" Palmer asked. Fernandez said those were names he used when making music with Dope House Records in Houston.
Palmer then led Fernandez through his work record. He testified his first job was began when he was 27-years-old. Through Palmer's detailed and calculated questioning, Fernandez admitted that he moved from job to job and house to house and was arrested numerous times. Fernandez on the stand testified that he was incarcerated in the Texas Youth Commission as a juvenile on charges of child endangerment and violated the terms of his probation when he was released. He also admitted that he was evicted from several residences for non-payment of rent.
After over an hour of testimony, Fernandez was released and defense attorney Calhoun called Fernandez's sister, Jennifer Fernandez to the stand. Jennifer testified that there were nine siblings and Andrew was in the middle. She testified that the family couldn't raise the $100,000 portion of the bail money needed to bond Andrew out of jail.
Then it was the prosecution's turn to call witnesses and present evidence in the bond reduction hearing.
D.A. Palmer called San Angelo Police Department Crimes Against Children Detective Rebecca Stuart to testify. Stuart was the detective who investigated the murder of Nathan. She told the court that the medical examiner who performed the autopsy determined the cause of death was three broken vertebrae. Stuart also testified Nathan was developmentally challenged and had bruises on his chest and his hips. Stuart was on the stand for over an hour testifying about the findings of her investigation in which she said Fernandez lied to investigators and his story was inconsistent with the injuries the toddler suffered. Stuart said Moreno had several children and many of them said they were afraid of their stepfather.
Stuart described her interview with Fernandez as "excuses and blame." The detective said the other children described their stepfather as abusive and described an incident where Fernandez threw Nathan on a couch violently and squeezed him so hard blood came out of his mouth.
Detective Stuart also testified that her investigation revealed Fernandez reached out to a local media outlet (San Angelo LIVE !) on Facebook messenger attempting to blame Nathan's death on a brittle bone disorder. Stuart said the autopsy showed no sign of a bone or blood disorder.
Defense attorney Calhoun shuffled papers and talked so softly and rapidly that the court reporter frequently asked him to repeat himself. Even District Judge Brad Goodwin had to stop Calhoun on several occasions and remind him to speak clearly for the court reporter.
Palmer then called District Attorney investigator Martha Muro to the stand. Muro testified that she interviewed at least four people who said they were afraid of Fernandez and would live in fear if he was release on bond. The pretrial hearing headed into it's fourth hour as Calhoun and Muro sparred over her report and testimony.
Testimony in the bond reduction hearing finally ended around 5:47 p.m. Defense Attorney Calhoun presented his closing argument asking Judge Goodwin to give accused capital murderer Fernandez a Personal Recognizance Bond because he's not a threat to society, he is barred from seeing the children, and he's not a flight risk. Speaking about prosecution witnesses, Calhoun said, "The trash comes out when the D.A. shows up."
In her closing argument, Palmer told the court Fernandez has proven he is, "Not a man of his word or his BOND."
After four hours of testimony, it took Judge Goodwin about four seconds to deny the motion to reduce Andrew Fernandez's bond.
Fernandez and Moreno remain in the Tom Green County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.
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