To his family, Derek Medina is a loving, heart-warming person who volunteered at his local church. Not the man who confessed to killing his wife and posting a photo of the dead body on Facebook.
Still trying to make sense of the gruesome incident exposed across the social media world on Thursday, the Medina family spent Saturday looking at photos of him laughing, smiling and wearing a red robe while lighting candles during a Pentecost Mass earlier this year at St. Bede Episcopal Chapel in Coral Gables.
“He is a complex, multidimensional person just like everybody else,” said the Rev. Frank Corbishley, 57, who visited the Medina family Friday night. “That’s why everyone is shocked.”
The family has not been able to see or speak to Medina, 31, since he was taken into custody for confessing to fatally shooting his wife Jennifer Alfonso, 26. Because he is on suicide watch, his family is not allowed to have any contact with him until at least Monday, Corbishley said.
A spokeswoman at the medical examiner’s office said Saturday afternoon that Alfonso’s body had not been released.
In an interview with NBC 6, Jose Alfonso, Jennifer Alfonso’s father, said he hopes Medina pays for taking away his daughter.
“Whatever he gets is not going to bring my daughter back. So I hope that he gets everything that’s coming to him,” he said.
Corbishley, the pastor of the Episcopal chapel at the University of Miami campus, met Medina 19 years ago when he was a 12-year-old acolyte at the chapel. Medina volunteered with his grandfather, to whom he was close, and helped out during services by carrying the cross, lighting candles and holding the Gospel, the priest said.
Although Medina withdrew from the church as a teenager, he would still stop by every once in a while, Corbishley said.
In May, when his grandfather was in a car accident, Medina took over his role as acolyte, Corbishley said. The 31-year-old helped out with Father’s Day service and Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Mass is a special service held once a year during spring that celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto Jesus’ disciples.
Medina brought his wife Alfonso to one of those May services and the couple joined the congregation for coffee afterward. Corbishley spoke with them briefly but did not see any signs of trouble.
“I thought of him as a fairly typical 30-year-old,” he recalled. “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
Saturday afternoon, Medina’s aunt, Valerie Medina, declined to be quoted but said she wants people to know her nephew is not a monster.
“The stories talk about him as if he’s an ogre,” Corbishley said, even as he acknowledged the killing and Facebook post as a horrible crime. “I don’t know him that way.”
Medina shocked the social media world by posting a confession that he had shot his wife along with a photo of her bloody corpse on his Facebook page.
“Facebook people you’ll see me in the news,’’ Medina wrote next to the ghoulish photo, which remained visible for hours and quickly spread across the Internet.
Medina then went to the South Miami police station around noon Thursday and, according to authorities, confessed to the murder at the couple’s home at 5555 SW 67th Ave. Alfonso’s 10-year-old daughter was upstairs at the time, but was unharmed.
“According to investigators, after fatally shooting his wife, the subject drove himself to the South Miami Police Department and turned himself in,’’ the arrest affidavit states. “Officers then responded to the above listed location where they found the victim deceased from apparent gunshot wounds, as well as the victim’s daughter, 10, who was unharmed.”
On his Facebook post, Medina wrote that he shot his wife following an argument. 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.
Medina is being held without bond on the ninth-floor psychiatric ward of the county jail pending his arraignment — expected to take place before the end of the month — on charges of first-degree murder.