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Road rage victim’s son talks about disappointing verdict, sentence

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — A man convicted in a road rage beating is sentenced, but he doesn’t have to serve any more jail time.

One of the victim’s sons talked to us about it.

“We couldn’t find him, we didn’t know what was going on, he wasn’t answering his phone, so we tried to retrace his steps to and from work and we spotted his Mustang,” Paul Fernandez says.

He tells us instead of his family celebrating his 29th birthday that day, the officer at the scene along US 30 told him his father, Orlando Fernandez, had been rushed to the hospital after being beaten in a road rage incident.

He died before anyone could get there — the coroner saying it was a homicide, a heart attack caused by the beating.

Investigators found 28-year-old Brandon Cook in Florida and brought him back to stand trial, where last week, a jury found him not guilty of involuntary manslaughter but guilty of misdemeanor battery.

“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted but there’s some peace in the fact that it’s over,” Fernandez says.

The Fernandez family was disappointed with the verdict, but deeply appreciate the police and prosecutors’ work on the case.

“This is part of the process. You are judged by a jury of your peers, and they didn’t see case the same way that we saw it,” he says.

Cook was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail, but because he was behind bars waiting for his trial, he will walk free.

While the Fernandez family attended the three-day trial, they did not attend the sentencing hearing.

“Mr. Cook forced himself into our lives, and we felt like we just needed to be rid of this experience. We just needed to move on. He’s going to go out and live his life, and we just hope it’s as far away from us,” Paul Fernandez says.

He says Orlando Fernandez came to the United States from Cuba as a boy, became an Eagle Scout and an American citizen, and embraced his new country, voting in every election and serving on juries.

He says his dad loved their close-knit family, doted on his granddaughter, and spread joy wherever he went.

“The hardest part of this isn’t the sentencing, it’s the fact that we just don’t have our dad anymore,” he says.

Orlando Fernandez was 60 years old.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards released a statement this afternoon about the case, saying, “We are disappointed, on behalf of Mr. Fernandez’s family, with the jury’s verdict finding Cook not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. However, we will pursue justice and work on behalf of this community and for families whose loved ones have been victims of crime.”

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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