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A Florida man obsessed with serial killers and who slit the throat of a classmate in a middle school bathroom has died in prison.
The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to Oxygen.com that Michael Hernandez died Thursday at the Columbia Correctional Institution.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been tasked with investigating the 31-year-old’s death.
Officials declined to provide additional details citing the “open and active investigation,” however, a source told local station WFOR-TV that he collapsed to the ground in what may have been a possible drug overdose. There were no obvious signs of foul play.
Details of Hernandez’s horrific crime sent shockwaves through the country in 2004. Authorities said he lured a fellow classmate, 14-year-old Jaime Gough, into a bathroom stall at Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay and viciously stabbed him more than 40 times, according to The Miami Herald. Hernandez—who was also 14 at the time of the slaying—then slit the teen’s throat before hiding the bloody knife in his backpack and going to class.
Prosecutors argued in court that Hernandez had wanted to become a serial killer and had written a hit list of people he wanted to kill. Before slaughtering Gough in the bathroom, he had unsuccessfully tried to lure another teen into the bathroom; he was also convicted of the attempted murder of Andre Martin.
Martin, who later became a Miami-Dade police detective, told the newspaper he heard Hernandez had died Saturday after getting an automated message from the prison informing him that the inmate’s “custody status” had changed.
The death brought him mixed feelings, he said.
“My continued condolences for Jaime Gough’s parents, and the entire Gough family,” he said. “And the Hernandez family—they were not the ones who committed a crime and they did lose a family member.”
Gough’s parents, Jorge and Maria Gough, said their thoughts were also with the Hernandez family, according to WSVN.
“To the family, I am very sorry this has happened to your son,” Jorge said. “Mrs. and Mr. Hernandez, we are not happy to hear that your son passed, despite of all what we have been through. We as parents know how it feels.”
Jorge said the news of the death had been “very shocking” and unexpected.
“I started crying, crying, crying. I couldn’t stop crying,” Maria added. “It was very sad.”
Jorge said he still imagines the man his son could have been.
“I envisioned him, like, professional, probably with a family already, so many things,” he told the news outlet. “And so, when we got the news yesterday, everything came back.”
Hernandez, who had unsuccessfully tried to argue that he was insane at the time of the killing, was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2008.
He got a new sentencing hearing in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court banned automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders; but a judge once again handed down a life sentence after disturbing jail house phone calls captured Hernandez talking about serial killers and mocking his inability to cry.
After his death last week, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said her thoughts remained with both families.
“Jaime Gough’s brutal murder ended a promising young life and forever scarred his family. For them, this news still must tear at their hearts,” she said in a statement. “I have always felt that Michael Hernandez’ family were also Michael’s victims. Upon his conviction, Michael Hernandez’ family was also scarred by Michael’s actions.”
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