from the Judgment of Sentence Entered June 27, 2018, in the
Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal
Division at No. CP-51-CR-0603151-1988
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., LAZARUS, J., AND FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
Hernandez appeals from the June 27, 2018 judgment of sentence
of four concurrent terms of 45 years' to life
imprisonment imposed after a jury found him guilty of four
counts of first-degree murder and one count of possessing
instruments of crime ("PIC"). After careful
review, we affirm the judgment of sentence.
panel of this court summarized the relevant facts of this
case as follows:
Appellant's next door neighbor, Jerome Moses,
testified that on March 14, 1988, he heard loud scuffling
noises between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. in the Hernandez apartment.
As these noises continued, he heard Carmen Hernandez,
appellant's stepmother, say three times, "I love
you." He then heard three or four popping noises that
sounded like a cap gun. Subsequently, Mr. Moses did not hear
any more voices, but he did hear dragging sounds and noises
resembling objects being replaced. He then heard somebody
leave the apartment. When he looked out of the window, he saw
one man get into the Hernandez family van. Mr. Moses
originally thought that the man was appellant's father,
since the individual was wearing Mr. Hernandez's jacket
and since only the father drove the van. Once he learned that
the father was dead, the witness then concluded that the man
must have been appellant.
During the next week, friends, neighbors, and relatives
became concerned about the Hernandez family since they had
not been seen and since both of their vehicles were not in
their normal parking places. Telephone calls to the apartment
were not answered. Meanwhile, appellant decided to stay at
his girlfriend's house, and he told her mother that he
was alone since his family suddenly left without telling him
or taking him with them. However, the family had not told
anyone about these travel plans. Appellant attended school
regularly during the week, took his girlfriend on a shopping
spree, and moved a VCR and other valuable items out of his
family's apartment and into his girlfriend's house.
His girlfriend commented on numerous deep scratches on
appellant's chest[, ] which he explained had been
inflicted during a recent robbery.
Eventually, appellant was questioned in school by his
parent[s'] friends and relatives concerning his
family's whereabouts. He escorted them back to the
apartment and allowed them to enter. When asked about blood
stains on the sofa, appellant replied that the stains were
Carmen's blood. When questioned about why the bathroom
door was locked, the fan on, and a towel under the door, he
had no explanation. Appellant fled when the bathroom door was
broken down and the bodies of his father, stepmother, and two
younger brothers were found in the bathtub. The bodies were
encased in plastic bags and covered with towels. It was
determined that both parents had been shot in the back of the
head, one brother had been asphyxiated with a plastic bag
over his head, and another brother had his skull crushed.
Appellant fled Pennsylvania in his father's Honda. He
reached Florida and then headed west through Tennessee.
Tennessee State Troopers Richard Austin and Joel Deal
observed appellant's Honda parked in a rest stop. Several
hours later, the officers observed appellant's Honda
parked in the same place at the rest stop. Trooper Austin
watched appellant get out of his automobile, stretch, and put
on a long coat. Since the weather was warm, Trooper Austin
became suspicious. He ran a computer check on appellant's
license plate number which revealed that appellant was wanted
in Pennsylvania in connection with multiple homicides, that
the occupant of the Honda matched the description of the
suspect, and that appellant was presumed armed and dangerous.
The troopers returned to the rest stop, surprised appellant
in the restaurant, and arrested him.
The troopers then asked for appellant's license and
identification. Police retrieved these items after appellant
indicated that they were in his wallet in his back pocket.
When the troopers requested the keys to the Honda, appellant
indicated they were in his coat pocket. Trooper Deal reached
in and took the keys and handed them to Trooper Austin.
Trooper Austin inspected the car, unlocked it, and retrieved
a letter sitting on the car seat in plain view. The letter
was written by appellant, and in it, he informed his
girlfriend that he had killed his family, was proud of it,
and felt better. The troopers then locked the car, made
arrangements to have it towed, read appellant his
Miranda rights, and transported him to the nearest
At trial, appellant alleged that he killed his father in
self-defense and that his father continually abused him. He
claimed his father was angry that appellant's stepmother
again became pregnant and that his father frequently
threatened to leave her or to kill the whole family. In fact,
appellant alleged that his father was jealous and suspected
him of impregnating his stepmother. Appellant produced
witnesses who substantiated that his father beat him, was
having marital discord, and had been seen by one of them
threatening appellant by putting a gun to his head.
Appellant's specific defense to the charges of
first[-]degree murder was that his father had returned home
in a drunken rage and forced appellant to kill the others.
His father then made him clean the apartment. Later, in the
car, his father again threatened him, but appellant was able
to shoot his father. Appellant argued that the evidence
supported this version of events since the blood-stained
seats in the car matched only his father's blood type.
The Commonwealth refuted this evidence by proving that the
barrel of the murder weapon contained only the blood type[, ]
which matched his stepmother, but not his father. Thus,
appellant's stepmother[, ] rather than his father[, ] was
the last one to be shot with that gun.
Commonwealth v. Hernandez, 590 A.2d 325, 326-328
(Pa.Super. 1991), appeal denied, 600 A.2d 534 (Pa.
sentencing court summarized the relevant procedural history
of this case as follows:
On January 25, 1990, after a jury trial before the Honorable
Eugene H. Clarke, a jury convicted [appellant] of four counts
of First-Degree Murder and [PIC]. On that same date, [the
trial court] sentenced [appellant] to two consecutive and two
concurrent terms of life imprisonment without the possibility
of parole for the First-Degree Murder convictions, ...