James Escoto Murder: What Happened to Baldomero Fernandez?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Fear Thy Neighbor: Home’s Where the Hearse Is’ depicts the brutal murder of 31-year-old James “Jimmy” Escoto in Flagami, Florida, in early October 1986. The episode chronicles how a feud over trivial issues and ego clashes between two neighbors ultimately resulted in the untimely death. The show also documents, through detailed interviews with residents and law enforcement officials, how political influence allegedly helped the perpetrator receive a minor sentence for such a gruesome crime.

How Did James Escoto Die?

Flagami, located in the sun-soaked city of Miami, Florida, is a community radiating with warmth and vibrancy. With its family-oriented atmosphere set amidst a backdrop of perpetual sunshine, Flagami stands as the epitome of a sought-after home. The collective spirit of cooperation among residents paints a picture of a tight-knit community. After being discharged from the army, James “Jimmy” Escoto returned to his Cuban neighborhood to live with his mother, Olga Herrera, his stepbrother, Fred, and son, Anthony, then eight, in 1983.

According to the show, Jimmy soon became friends with his older neighbor, Baldomero Fernandez, an influential community member. After retiring as a bellhop at Miami International Airport, he settled in the neighborhood to enjoy his golden years. Baldomero’s daughter, Linda Fernandez, recalled how her father was the founding member of the church a few blocks away, being present while it was built and always volunteering at the church fair. She claimed he was involved in local politics and was friends with the mayor.

In pursuit of his nursing degree, Jimmy took on odd jobs at Baldomero’s property to fund his education. Upon graduating from nursing school, he secured a position as a private nurse for the former celebrated Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti’s son in 1986. Marc Buoniconti, a former linebacker himself, was paralyzed during an on-field mishap in 1985. However, he attributed his recovery progress to Jimmy’s unwavering support, claiming that the latter’s encouragement and kindness played a vital role in getting him off the respirator.

Marc testified to Jimmy’s selfless and caring nature, and the latter’s son, Anthony (now an adult), added how his father “had a big heart …. probably the biggest I’ve seen.” Hence, it was shocking when Baldomero brutally murdered Jimmy on October 4, 1986, while the latter was looking for his minor son. According to police sources, Baldomero shot Jimmy, chased him down, emptied the gun into him, and kept on hitting him with the weapon’s butt. When his wife took away the gun, he bashed his head in with a cement slab till Jimmy died.

Why Did Baldomero Fernandez Kill James Escoto?

According to the show, Jimmy and Baldomero’s relationship deteriorated when the former refused to work for the senior man anymore after he graduated college. Drunk on his reported political influence, Baldomero fancied himself as someone who deserved respect and could not handle being turned down. The turbulent relationship was marked by conflicts escalating from property disputes to violent threats. Baldomero despised the young man’s wild ways — from hosting loud parties in his backyard to regularly bringing a string of women to his home.

However, the matters escalated when Jimmy parked a truck on a property strip between the pair’s home that the senior man deemed as his. Baldomero immediately ordered him to move the vehicle. Initially, Jimmy, refusing to comply with his demands, triggered a series of disputes involving property boundaries, legal interventions, and strained interactions with law enforcement. As tensions reached a boiling point, Baldomero, consumed by rage, closely monitored Jimmy’s every move and resorted to frequent police calls over perceived violations.

The escalating hostilities eventually led to mutual restraining orders, further intensifying the animosity between the former friends-turned-adversaries. Over the years, the animosity took a darker turn as Baldomero repeatedly threatened Jimmy’s life, even extending the threats to Jimmy’s mother, Olga. Despite the escalating danger, Jimmy continued his commitment to charitable causes, attending events like the “Great Sports Legends” charity dinner in New York with Marc. But tragedy struck on October 4, 1986, when his son, Anthony, went missing.

While searching for his son, Jimmy encountered Baldomero, leading to a fatal confrontation. According to the show, he approached the senior citizen, parked on the former’s lawn, and cussed him. In reciprocation, Baldomero brought out a gun, but Jimmy, undaunted in his belief that the former wouldn’t use it, refused to back down. In a shocking and brutal act, Baldomero shot Jimmy before chasing after the injured father. The violence escalated further as he caught up with him, emptying the gun into him and thrashing him with his gun’s butt.

When Baldomero’s wife, Lourdes, snatched the weapon from him and called 911, the furious aged man started bashing Jimmy’s head with a concrete slab lying nearby. By the time the medics rushed the wounded nurse to a local hospital, 31-year-old Jimmy had succumbed to his injuries. When the police arrested him for the murder, he claimed the victim had attacked him first with a chain, and he had used his gun in self-defense. However, the officers could not find any signs of injuries on Baldomero, and he was arrested on second-degree murder charges.

What Happened to Baldomero Fernandez?

Born to Los Alfonsos in Puerto Padre County, Cuba, to Baldomero Fernandez Suarez and Isabel Arenas Albanes on October 10, 1924, Baldomero became a natural citizen after continuously living in the US since May 1948. He married Maria Ramon, an American citizen, in Miami on June 30, 1956. He separated and married Lourdes, but they divorced in July 1991. After he was arrested on second-degree murder charges, the erstwhile mayor, Xavier Suarez, rushed to meet his friend of seven years, Baldomero, a volunteer worker at an elementary school.

After the mayor pledged his support, over 200 supporters, including West Miami Mayor Pedro Reboredo, appeared in court. Despite initially being charged with second-degree murder, the judge deemed Baldomero, a PTA and Boy Scout leader, as non-threatening. He was subsequently released without bail and was entrusted to the care of his wife, Mayor Reboredo, and a parish priest. However, a grand jury upgraded the charge to first-degree murder, leading to his re-incarceration.

With the community begging for leniency, Baldomero, then 63, pled guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of seven years. He narrowly avoided the death penalty with the plea deal, confessing to the crime but blaming it on temporary insanity. He added, “It never crossed my mind to do that (killing Jimmy). The way I feel now, it’s miserable. Sometimes, I wish I could be the dead person.” He was released after serving three years only and died of natural causes in his Miami residence at 83 on October 10, 1924.

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