Jaime Gough should be pushing 30 years old, just like his killer and former best friend, Michael Hernandez.
Instead, he died 14 years ago on the cold tile floor of a bathroom stall in his school, Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay, after Hernandez stabbed him more than 40 times on Feb. 3, 2004, in what the disturbed youth hoped would be the opening act in his life as a serial killer.
Hernandez is serving a life prison sentence for first-degree murder. Recorded jail phone calls with a girlfriend played during a 2016 hearing show his obsession with the macabre that led to him murder his friend, with goals to kill more, has not waned.
Conversations with the troubled woman, who began corresponding with Hernandez after he began serving time, covered the spectrum of gore, from violent music lyrics and films to their admiration of notorious mass killers.
Meanwhile Jaime’s mother and father, Jorge and Maria, both 55, and his younger sister, Brenda, now 25, are left to grieve. But, in the words of Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn, those who will forever mourn Jaime, who was 14 when he died, are now determined to “remember the good and not let the evil prevail.”
The Goughs, city and school officials and others gathered on the outskirts of the Southwood campus Thursday to dedicate a portion of Southwest 164th Street “Jaime Gough Way.”
“Even though my son is not here, you don’t have any idea how much this means to my family, especially me,” Maria Gough told the audience of about 60 people.
The family opened a small box filled of more than a dozen butterflies during the ceremony, symbolizing the happy life Jaime led before he died. One butterfly landed on Maria’s finger and stayed there for more than five minutes, even after the tarp that unveiled the street sign with Jaime’s name on it fell on top of the winged insect.
“I told many people this is a vitamin,” Maria Gough said about the dedication. “For me, a vitamin for my soul to be strong.”
For most parents, the thought of losing a child to any manner of death, let alone murder, is unbearable. The Goughs are no different.
Jorge Gough said in the aftermath of his son’s killing he didn’t think he could go on.
“I thought I could never smile again, or enjoy a good meal, because I could not live without my son,” he said.
But, his Christian faith not only pulled him out of what he thought was the abyss, but it also allowed him to feel joy once again.
“There is hope. Life goes on, and with God, you can make it,” he said. “In difficult times, sometimes you see no way out. If you look down, no way, if you look at your side, no way. But, if you look up, there is a way up, there is a way out, and that is Christ.”
Officer Andre Martin, of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was also at the ceremony Thursday. However, Martin, 28, didn’t attend as part of his police duties. Rather, he was there to memorialize Jaime, his childhood friend. What he didn’t want to dwell on was the fact that he was also one of Hernandez’s intended victims.
“That day was definitely life-altering,” Martin said. “My goal ever since that day was to take a phenomenally tragic event and turn it into something positive. So, in my particular case, I did that by becoming an officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department.”
Jaime was killed when Hernandez convinced him to go into the bathroom stall for those with disabilities the morning of Feb. 3, 2004. Once both were inside the cubicle, the larger Hernandez overpowered Jaime and slit his throat.
The day before, Hernandez had planned to kill both of his friends in the stall. He said he had something to show them, and wanted to show Martin first. But, Martin said no. The bell rang, and the three boys went to class.
The next day, Martin — who was friends with Hernandez since they were both 8 but began spending less time with him as Hernandez’s taste in death-metal music and horror movies grew — was supposed to meet his friends in the bathroom but forgot.
This left only Jaime at the mercy of Hernandez.
“The day prior to the event there were steps that Michael Hernandez took that didn’t go through as he planned because I didn’t go along with what he asked me to do,” Martin told reporters. Hernandez “took those same steps the next day with Jaime.”
Flinn, who began his first term as mayor shortly before the murder, said one significant outcome of the crime was the increased presence of law enforcement inside Miami-Dade schools in an era that predated the Parkland massacre by 14 years.
“Shock, anger, grief resonated through all of us. It was a grim reminder of how evil comes in many forms,” Flinn said. “And, then, we as a community must take every conceivable measures to prevent this senseless violence. Because nothing is as important as the safety of our children.”