Six Years Later, a Daughter Still Grieves for her Father

On April 29, 2011, Destinee Fernandez, 25, had planned to watch the movie “Easy A”  with her father, David Fernandez, 46.  Instead, she said, she went to her cousin’s house to celebrate a relative’s birthday. That is where she was when police called with the devastating news that her father had been stabbed.

Around 9  p.m. that night, a 54-year-old man named Ramon Escobar walked into a store named Crazy Loco 99 Cent store at 281 Broadway in Williamsburg to buy 8-inch kitchen knives, police said.  Armed with those knives, he walked a few blocks to the corner of South 9th and Roebling streets, where he plunged one of the knives into David Fernandez’s left thigh. The assault followed an earlier dispute when Escobar claimed that Fernandez was inappropriately contacting Escobar’s girlfriend, according to police.

Police said that Escobar, now 60, was intoxicated at the time of the murder. “Something unusual about this case … that Mr. Escobar till this day, doesn’t have memory of stabbing Mr. Fernandez,” said Michael Manley, Escobar’s lawyer. “In fact, he doesn’t have memory of that night at all.” Manley said that Escobar had “problems with alcohol.”

The murder took place at the corner South 9th and Roebling streets in Williamsburg. (The Ink/Isabella Rolz)

In a recent interview at a Williamsburg café, Destinee Fernandez said that on the night of the murder, her father was hanging out with friends in front of the building where he grew up. She described the area in front of the store where Escobar bought the knife as a place where “guys sit and drink.” Destinee Fernandez said that her father and Escobar grew up together and while not “best friends,” they were “friendly.” She said Escobar’s girlfriend accused her father of flirting with her after he tried to buy cigarettes from her. Escobar then confronted Fernandez and stabbed him after saying he was going to kill him, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

On the day of the stabbing, the Fernandez family rushed to Bellevue Hospital without knowing that David Fernandez had already bled to death, Destinee Fernandez said. She recalled that a doctor called them to a small room and told them that the six-inch wound pierced the bone and detached a crucial artery and vein.

“I threw my bag at the doctor and I ran out the room,” she said. She said she got upset because as soon as she walked out of the room, she saw “an emergency room with a bunch of people and there was a guy, I guess he was in jail because he had his uniform and was handcuffed, and I’m like really? That guy gets to live and my dad has to die?”

Escobar, who lived in the Inwood section of Manhattan, was not arrested until April 2015. Destinee Fernandez says that is because it was difficult to locate an appropriate witness. “We had problems finding somebody that could be a good witness because the crowd he was with … was like drunks and drug addicts …” she said. Finally, she said, a man whose identity can’t be confirmed, came forward to police after she begged him to testify because he was at the scene before and after the murder. “He lives where I live and I’ve seen him around, so I basically went up to him and was like, can you just do this for me?” Destinee Fernandez said.

A jury convicted Escobar of first-degree manslaughter and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and on Nov. 17, 2016, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years’ post-release supervision. He is now at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in  Comstock.

David and Destinee Fernandez (Photo courtesy of Destinee Fernandez)

Destinee Fernandez said her father’s death was particularly difficult because they were close when she was growing up. “He was always there for me…sometimes even closer than me and my mom were,” she said.  She said she was, in fact, the last family member to see him alive.

For several months, she felt guilty that she didn’t watch the movie with her father. She thinks that if she had been with him, he never would have had the run-in with Escobar and would still be alive.

However, six years after his death, she’d rather remember him as a loving father and a great person. “My dad would talk to me about anything,” he said.  “He was a good dad to me. I never felt abandoned by him. He was always there for me …  until he died.”

David Fernandez lived all his life in Brooklyn, according to his daughter. He was a bike messenger for Urban Express and later for HBO. “He used to tell me he delivered messages to celebrities,” Destinee Fernandez said. David Fernandez went into Manhattan every day and came back home at night, to read, watch movies and talked about celebrity gossip, one of his daughter’s favorite topics.

In many ways, father and daughter were similar, Destinee Fernandez said. She said they talked the same way and had similar facial expressions, but he was louder and had a bigger personality than she does. She remembers her father helped her with her math homework and taught her how to ride a bike.

The Fernandez family is very big, but Destinee Fernandez said she only maintains contact with certain relatives. She is very close to her mom, who just moved to Florida over a year ago. On her father’s side, she was closest to her aunt, Debbie Fernandez, who died of a heart attack at 52 in 2014, a year before Ramon Escobar was officially arrested. “I feel bad that she died before they even caught the guy who killed my dad,” Destinee Fernandez said. “That’s all she wanted.”

Destinee Fernandez remembers that her aunt had personal problems before her heart attack, which her niece believes was in part caused by her brother’s death and the chaos it caused in the neighborhood.

Debbie Fernandez lived two blocks away from Ramon Escobar and it was very hard for her to see him after she knew that he killed her brother. Escobar went around the neighborhood telling people he’d killed a man and avoided prison, Destinee Fernandez said.

Destinee Fernandez says her family is now at peace. She is about to start her last semester at Long Island University, Brooklyn,  and hopes to pursue a career in pharmacy.