MIAMI -- What Derek Medina wanted he couldn't accomplish by self-publishing books
with weighty titles, by hunting ghosts and evil spirits -- or by chronicling his
life on 143 different YouTube videos.
But in just moments Thursday, with little more than a click of his computer key, the 31-year-old from South Miami achieved a rancid form of fame.
Having just killed his wife, Medina propped her twisted, bloody corpse in front of a camera and posted the photo on Facebook, along with his confession, forever earning the label "Facebook Killer."
"Facebook people you'll see me in the news,'' Medina wrote next to the ghoulish photo on his page that remained public for hours Thursday. Then, with no hint of remorse, he confessed to the world that he had shot his 26-year-old wife, Jennifer Alfonso.
The social media web site, with an estimated 750 million registered users around the world, removed the photograph, but not before it went viral -- and set another example of how social media is increasingly being used as a tool for instant fame and exploitation in an era of eroding privacy.
On Friday afternoon, the hulking, tattooed Medina appeared in court in handcuffs via a video link from the Miami-Dade jail.
With a pronounced stubble, Medina wore a greenish padded gown for inmates on suicide watch.
Two corrections officer flanked Medina as he told a Miami-Dade assistant public defender, "I'm in the process of talking to someone," apparently a reference to hiring a lawyer.
Circuit Judge Maria Elena Verde pressed Medina on whom he was referring to, but Medina shook his head, either not hearing or understanding the question. Ultimately, Medina agreed to be represented by the public defender's office.
Verde ordered him held without bail.
He is being housed in the ninth-floor psychiatric ward of the county jail pending his arraignment in 21 days on charges of first-degree murder.
After shooting his wife and posing her, Medina walked into the South Miami police station around noon Thursday and confessed to killing Alfonso at the couple's home. Alfonso's 10-year-old daughter was upstairs at the time, but was unharmed.
Medina said he shot his wife following an argument during which she threatened to leave him. On Facebook, he said his wife was striking him. "I'm not going to stand anymore with the abuse so I did what I did," he wrote.
He later told police that he shot her multiple times after she picked up a kitchen knife, then began punching and kicking him.
Family and friends on Friday gave contradictory statements about the couple's stormy marriage, with each side accusing the other spouse of psychological and physical abuse.
"They are making my son out to be a monster and it was the other way around,'' said Medina's father, Derek Ian Medina. "She pushed him to the point of insanity.''
His family accused Alfonso of using alcohol and drugs and of being an unfit mother.
"He was scared about her,'' his father said, adding that the mental abuse drove him to the point of using Facebook to express his outrage.
But other photographs on his page show the couple in happier times, sitting poolside, sharing meals, at a golf tournament with Tiger Woods striding in the background. Others show Medina, who worked parking cars at a posh apartment complex in Coral Gables, in various macho poses, one of them a self-shot photograph in front of a mirror, flexing his tattooed arm.
Alfonso's family and friends say that Medina was jealous and controlling and that he pressured her to quit her job at Denny's, where she worked the graveyard shift to support her daughter, Isabella, who was her pride and joy.
The couple met in 2010 and married within months before divorcing two years later. They remarried within a few months of the divorce, records show.
Alfonso's friend, Amada Cooper, said it was Medina who abused Alfonso, who showed up at work with bruises several times.
Alfonso's family declined to talk about the couple's relationship, but disputed what Medina's family said.
Rohan Knox, Alfonso's stepfather, said she was not a violent person and he never saw her take drugs or alcohol.
"Anyone can say anything bad about anybody," Knox said. Family members described Alfonso as a very happy person, "always smiling, always laughing, making jokes." He says the image of Alfonso that comes to his mind is her with her daughter. "She was playing, always playing with her daughter."
"She meant a lot to us," Knox said of Alfonso.
At the couple's two-bedroom townhouse, neighbors gathered Friday, talking quietly among themselves. Most were afraid to speak publicly. Explained one man who knew Medina: the man "lost his marbles.''
The windows to the house were always shuttered, neighbors said, and Medina was an intimidating figure in the middle-class community. The complex, Miller 67, is across the street from a Walgreens.
An acquaintance of Medina's described him as "odd'' and prone to violent outburst. The friend, who would only give his first name, Joe, said he once saw Medina pull a gun on a woman who had accidentally spilled beer on his wife at a rock concert.
Joe said Medina's behavior especially disturbed him when they were part of a softball league three years ago.
"He would stalk us,'' Joe said. "He would hide in bushes and record us.''
(Miami Herald staff writers David Ovalle, Daniel Ducassi, Glenda Ortega, Max Holscher, Nancy San Martin, and El Nuevo Herald staff writer Maria Perez, as well as Herald researcher Monika Leal contributed to this report.)
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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