SACRAMENTO, CA - Phillip Hernandez said little at his arraignment in a courtroom packed with members of his family Friday night.
He had a fresh gash on his head. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office said it is from a "self inflicted injury during an incident in his cell." He is being housed in the psychiatric floor of the jail.
One person who has begun speaking out is his ex-wife and the mother of 9-year-old Matthew, Jessica Rose Hernandez.
Phillip Hernandez kept his head down as the judge read the charges accusing him of using a hatchet to kill his son. His family sat in the courtroom, but they had little to say when it was over. One exception, the suspect's grandmother, who reportedly witnessed the attack.
"My grandson is not a monster," Adialada Amezola yelled on the sidewalk in front of the jail.
Hernandez's attorney Stan Kubochi said he intends to use the days ahead to try to get to the bottom of what happened.
"I'd rather not comment at this time because obviously there are some background stories involved," Kubochi told reporters.
Phillip Hernandez was convicted twice of attacking his ex-wife Jessica Rose Hernandez, once in 2004 when they were still married and later in 2005.
Through Facebook correspondence with News10, Jessica Rose Hernandez said she had been worrying about her sons' safety. She tried to get custody of Matthew and his brother last November in front of Judge Sharon Lueras. Rose told the judge Hernandez had a drug problem, and was irrational, and "if the boys stay with him, something bad will happen."
"If she had done her job Phillip would've got the help he needed... and my angel would still be alive," Jessica Rose Hernandez wrote. "I hate her. The system has failed me."
Rose insists she had text messages proving how out of control he was, but the judge refused to look at them. She said if the judge had done her job, Hernandez would have gotten the help he needed and her son would still be alive.
Regarding the judge, Rose wrote in a message to News 10, "I blame her for Matthew's death." Through a spokeswoman, the judge declined our request to comment.
"My heart goes out to the victim's family. I will do the best I can to evaluate the case," Kubochi said.
Relatives of Phillip Hernandez have struggled to understand what could have led up to the attack.
"He's always been pretty level-headed. He's been through a lot, and he'd always surprise me the strength that he had even through all the stuff that he's been through," Phillip Hernandez's cousin Vinson Bigornia said Thursday.
"He was battling depression, and we believe it was due to he was suffering from PTSD from an accident," Hernandez's uncle Max Martinez explained.
Relatives say Phillip Hernandez had suffered from emotional problems since witnessing his own brother die in a car crash.
"That alone is a lot to see your brother dead on the street," Bigornia said.
"He told me about it. He fainted on the freeway. He was driving a tow truck, and he fainted, and he pretty much hasn't been the same since then," Martinez added.
However, family members said those problems go back years, even before the 2004 domestic violence arrest, and so far no one has been able to understand what could have prompted this week's attack.
Phillip Hernandez will be back in court March 14.
The funeral for Matthew Hernandez will be held Saturday, March 9. Friends and family have planned fundraisers to help with the expenses.
Give it Forward Fundraiser