BROWNFIELD, Texas (KCBD) - Last week, opening statements began in the Fernando Fernandez murder trial, but the trial only lasted for one day.
A handful of witnesses were called on Wednesday, Nov. 13 after opening statements and the day ended with plans to reconvene Thursday, Nov. 14 at 9 a.m. On Thursday morning, a plea deal was struck and Fernandez pleaded guilty to the murder of Christavian Baker and was sentenced to seven years in prison with credit for time served. He has been in jail 1,591 days, or just over four years.
On July 4, 2015, 37-year-old Christavian Jerrod Baker was murdered in the 500 block of North 5th Street just after 8:30 a.m.
Francisco Fernando Fernandez, who was 50-years-old at the time, was taken into custody by Brownfield Police with the help of Texas Rangers and the Terry County District Attorney. He was charged with murder.
According to the Brownfield News, opening statements revealed Fernandez owed a debt to Baker for drugs and in return, gave Baker his truck. Opening statements also revealed the gun used in the murder belonged to Anthony Serbantez, the son of Brownfield Police Chief Tony Serbantez. The prosecution said Chief Serbantez was conflicted throughout the investigation, but he continued to be involved. Chief Serbantez was not on the list to be called as a witness.
During the opening statement from Defense Attorney Fred Stangl, he stated, "This is a tale of the underbelly of your town. I guarantee you that you will be embarrassed of your law enforcement.” This is according to the Brownfield News.
The timeline was established after opening statements.
The Brownfield News says Linda Nolan called 911 at 8:30 a.m. on July 4, 2015. Nolan testified her nephews picked her up because they wanted her to go with them after they were told Chris was dead. Nolan arrived at the house and the front wooden door was open and the glass door was unlocked. She went in and told her nephews “He was dead, we need to call 911.”
She was asked how her nephews knew Chris had been shot, but she didn’t know. The defense asked her if police took a statement from her or her nephews, and she said they did not and said they were free to leave.
Chief Deputy Jason Flores was the first on the scene. He was a patrol corporal for Brownfield Police at the time of the murder. He noticed three people at the house and made them stay outside, according to his testimony. He went inside and saw the body and called for medics. He then called Sgt. Soliz to help secure the scene. They searched the house to make sure no one else was inside.
Officer Ray Perez, who is currently an officer with the Socorro Police Department in El Paso County, took the stand. He was a detective in Brownfield at the time of the murder. He arrived on the scene around 8:43 a.m. He said Cpl. Flores, Sgt. Soliz, Sgt. Langhenning and Chief Serbantez were on the scene. Perez began taking photos outside and went inside to take more. Perez, like Flores, said he saw two shell casings next to the body, which he identified as 9 mm shells.
While processing the scene, he noted he found crack/cocaine, marijuana and other drug related contraband. Perez took photos before the body was moved. He said law enforcement propped up the body against the wall and found a plugged-in cell phone under the body.
Two days after the murder, autopsy results found Chris was shot in the head twice. Brownfield Police were able to obtain a second warrant to search the scene again. They found the second bullet and more drugs.
Officer Perez was questioned about how long Chief Serbantez was on the scene; he said he thought he was there for a while. Perez was also asked if it was possible that more drugs could have appeared after releasing the property; he said, yes, it was possible.
For more on this story, visit Brownfield News.