Police and family services records have given a startling insight into the heartbreaking childhood of a 13-year-old boy accused of beating his two-year-old brother to death.
Cristian Fernandez reportedly suffered neglect at the hands of a teenage mother and a drug-abusing grandmother, sexual abuse by a cousin and physical assaults by a stepfather who went on to kill himself.
Fernandez, who was just 12 when he fatally smashed his brother's head against a book shelf, could become America's youngest ever 'lifer' after being charged as an adult over the murder.
But the case has ignited a fierce debate over whether the punishment is too strict for a child - particularly for one who was left to languish in a poisonous upbringing littered with abuse.
Fernandez was born in Miami, Florida in 1999 to Biannela Susana, who was just 12. The boy's 25-year-old father received 10 years' probation for sexually assaulting her.
Two years later, both mother and son went to foster care after authorities found the toddler filthy, naked and walking in the street at 4am near the motel where his grandmother, who was taking care of him, was found surrounded by cocaine.
In 2007, when Fernandez was eight, the Department of Children and Families investigated a report that he was sexually molested by an older cousin. Officials noted there were other troubling incidents: he killed a kitten; he simulated sex with classmates; he masturbated at school.
The boy learned to squelch his feelings, once telling a counselor: 'You got to suck up feelings and get over it.'
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