PALMETTO BAY, Fla. – A 14-year-old boy was charged with murder in the slaying of a classmate, a musician and baseball player who was found bleeding to death in a middle school bathroom.
A fellow student said the victim and the boy accused of killing him were friends who competed with each other to get top grades.
Jaime Rodrigo Gough (search), 14, was found early Tuesday at Southwood Middle School, a magnet school specializing in visual and performing arts, authorities said. His neck had been slashed.
Michael Hernandez, 14, signed a statement admitting he killed the boy and the knife used in the attack was found in his backpack, Miami-Dade County (search) police Detective Randy Rossman said Wednesday. Police had obtained a search warrant for the backpack.
Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder late Tuesday and waived his right to appear Wednesday in juvenile court. He was placed in secure detention.
The slaying was the second inside a school this week. A 17-year-old boy was shot in a Washington, D.C., high school hallway Monday.
Police said Gough and Hernandez knew each other, but refused to discuss a possible motive Wednesday.
Twelve-year-old Genesis Llapur said she dated Hernandez for about a month last year. She described him as a good student in honors classes who often competed with Gough for better grades.
"They were really good friends. I don't know what happened," she said.
Megan Hopper, 12, shared the same first-period class with Hernandez. She said he was late for class Tuesday and arrived with blood stains on the collar of his white T-shirt, pants leg and shoes.
He offered a variety of excuses, telling their teacher he bumped into someone, and his classmates that he bumped into a door or had a nosebleed, she said. Hernandez was removed from the classroom around lunchtime.
Hopper recalled Hernandez downloading gruesome pictures of decapitated heads from the Internet but otherwise described him as fun and talkative.
"The only thing he'd usually do bad was chew gum in class," she said.
A judge set a Feb. 24 hearing in the case after prosecutors asked for time to decide whether to seek a grand jury indictment and try the teen as an adult. Prosecutors and Hernandez's public defender declined to comment.
Juveniles accused of first-degree murder in Florida are usually charged as adults. If convicted of first-degree murder as an adult, he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Yellow tape cordoned the Hernandez home Wednesday, but the teen's father spoke briefly to The Associated Press by telephone.
"We've already expressed our condolences to the family of the victim and that's all we can say at this time," Jesus Hernandez said, declining further comment.
The school in Palmetto Bay (search), one of Miami-Dade County's wealthiest cities, did not have a history of violence, Miami-Dade School spokesman Mayco Villafana said.
Antonio Gough, who identified himself as the victim's uncle, said his nephew was a good student who played baseball, the violin and flute and was not a troublemaker.
"I still can't believe this can happen," he said.
Southwood students returned to the school Wednesday morning, and grief counselors were made available. Several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the school Wednesday night. They carried white candles and laid carnations at the base of a tree planted in Gough's honor.
Eighth-grader Michael Chakoff, 14, was wearing a T-shirt with the words "4ever in our hearts" on the back.
"It will take a long time to get over this," he said.
In the Washington case, Thomas J. Boykin, 18, surrendered to police Tuesday in the shooting of James Richardson, a Ballou High School student who died after being shot several times in the chest. Boykin was ordered held without bail Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge.