An Upper Keys teenager accused of killing his brother with a knife and injuring his father in the early-morning hours of May 7 is being charged as an adult, the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office announced on May 28.
Assistant State Attorney Gail Conolly confirmed to the Weekly that Daniel Weisberger, 17, is facing charges of second-degree murder in the homicide of his younger brother, first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery and false imprisonment.
The charges stem from the incident that occurred at the family’s apartment at Executive Bay in Islamorada earlier in the month between 4 a.m., when a neighbor heard a disturbance at the family’s apartment, and 6 a.m. when the father, 43-year-old Ariel Poholek, came to the neighbor’s door looking for help.
Weisberger fled and remained on the run throughout the day as law enforcement agencies searched. The younger brother, Pascal Weisberger, 14, was pronounced dead at the scene.
It wasn’t until the evening hours that Weisberger was spotted alongside U.S. 1 near Executive Bay Apartments where the incident took place. That’s when he ran into traffic and hit the side of a truck. He was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami where he was treated up until last week.
Conolly said several factors determine whether to charge a teenager as a juvenile or an adult. Weisberger turned 17 in February.
“One of the main things is obviously the seriousness of the offense,” Conolly said. “But it’s also his age because there wouldn’t be much time left for the Department of Juvenile Justice to supervise him.”
Weisberger was released from the hospital on May 28 and was moved around for some five hours between a juvenile facility and Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, an adult facility, in Miami. On June 2, he was transported to the Monroe County Detention Facility on Stock Island.
The family of Weisberger issued a statement on May 29 following the announcement of charges. They said they find it inappropriate and distressing that Weisberger is not in a juvenile detention center or a psychiatric institute, knowing the teen’s struggles that led to the tragedy. The family said Weisberger has faced child abuse and personality disorders and was diagnosed with neuroleptic malignant syndrome as a result of antipsychotic medicine and severe trauma brain injuries.
During his younger years, Poholek said, Weisberger was a good student who attended school in Martin County before coming to Monroe County where he attended Ocean Studies Charter School for a year, Plantation Key School for two years and Treasure Village Montessori for three years. He was well liked by teachers and students; he played soccer, participated in scouts and did taekwondo.
“He was a fully functional member of the community. He won the science fair the first year they had a district science fair when he was at PKS in fifth grade,” Poholek said. “He won the middle school science fair and won third place in the district. He wasn’t some juvenile delinquent kid who had bad behaviors.”
It wasn’t until high school that Weisberger started to suffer emotional and health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder from the abuse he took from his mother at a young age, Poholek said. Interventions were attempted, but didn’t seem to reach Weisberger as he became involved in the legal system with violent behaviors.
“It was all related to mental health issues,” Poholek said.
Weisberger was placed in residential treatment facilities, which Poholek said only made matters worse. While residing at a facility in Miami last year, Poholek said Weisberger suffered a broken hand due to inadequate safety supervision of kids. And weeks later, he got into an altercation where his glasses were broken.
Poholek said his son needs a comprehensive mental health evaluation to determine if he’s fit to stand trial. But that hasn’t happened, he acknowledged.
A second-degree murder charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, under sentencing guidelines for a person with a clean record, if convicted. A first-degree attempted murder charge carries up to life in prison, if convicted.
It’s unknown when the case would head to trial.
“It’s in the infancy stages,” Connolly said. “The defense attorney will demand discovery. We’ll turn over the evidence we have. A lot of it depends on the defense attorney because they have their job to do.”