NAPLES — A 15-year-old who fatally stabbed his school mate will no longer face criminal prosecution.
A judge’s ruling, made public Tuesday, granted a motion to dismiss the second-degree murder charge against Jorge Saavedra in the death of 16-year-old Dylan Nuno on the grounds that he acted in self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The State Attorney’s Office has indicated that it will not appeal the ruling.
Nuno’s family and friends criticized Collier County Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie’s decision, calling it “unbelievable” and “heartbreaking.”
“We know this wasn’t the right decision,” said Dylan’s aunt, Adriana Nuno.“(The judge) is showing those kids it’s OK to get away with murder.”
Saavedra, who was 14 at the time of the stabbing, was charged as a juvenile. If found guilty, the former Palmetto Ridge High student would have been released by the age of 21.
Brodie’s ruling concluded that Saavadra, who said he was bullied and tried avoid a fight with Nuno, did not act unlawfully. She added that Saavadra had more than enough reason to believe he was in danger of death or great bodily harm.
Brodie based her decision this week on the findings from a two-day December hearing, during which students who witnessed the events Jan. 24, 2011, testified that several teens announced the fight on the bus, and Saavedra got off several stops early in Golden Gate Estates. Saavedra showed a pocket knife to two teens on the bus that afternoon.
In a nine-page document released Tuesday by the State Attorney’s Office, Brodie stated that by getting off the bus several stops before the location where the fight was to happen, Saavedra “demonstrated that, with or without a knife, (he) had no desire to fight with Dylan Nuno.”
Accompanied by several students, Dylan Nuno, a junior, followed Saavedra, a freshman, off the bus. He then punched him in the back of the head, according to court documents and testimony.
Saavedra attempted to get away once, witnesses said. He then stabbed Dylan Nuno 12 times in the chest and abdomen. Two of the blows caused fatal wounds, including one that nicked his heart.
In her decision, signed Dec. 30, 2011, the judge said Saavedra had “no duty to retreat” and was “legally entitled to meet force with force, even deadly force.”
“The defendant was in a place where he had a right to be and was not acting unlawfully. He had more than enough reason to believe he was in danger of death or great bodily harm ... (He) was under attack from the first punch to the back of his head until he stabbed Dylan Nuno.”
Prosecutors will not be appealing the case, a move that upset Dylan Nuno’s family and friends.
“We’ve reviewed the decision,” said Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office. “There does not appear to be any issues to appeal.”
Saavedra’s lawyer, Donald Day, called the case “a tragedy all the way around.” Saavedra is currently living with his family in Miami.
“My reaction is there is no winner at all in this case,” Day said. “My client’s family feels terribly for the Nuno family.”
The judge’s decision came as a surprise to Adriana Aradas, 19, a close friend of Dylan Nuno who sat with his family for the December hearing, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with messages for the teen.
“I wasn’t’ expecting that at all,” Aradas said. “At the last hearing, there was so much against Jorge.”
During that hearing, students recounted for the judge previous altercations between the two teens, including one instance on the bus when something was lobbed from the back, where Dylan Nuno sat, to the front, where Saavedra was.
The judge also highlighted that Saavedra would skip school or find other ways home to avoid the bus.
Though the judge’s order does not mention the term “bullying,” which was heavily used by the defense, it does describe “taunting comments” from Dylan Nuno and two other male teens shortly before the fight.
Dylan Nuno’s family and friends have defended the teen, saying repeatedly he was not a bully and in fact transferred from Lely High School to Palmetto Ridge to escape taunting himself.
Their hopes for a bench trial before Brodie are now gone, weeks before the anniversary of his death and what would have been Dylan Nuno’s 18th birthday.
“Brodie’s decision is not setting a good example for children or adults,” said Kim Maxwell, Dylan Nuno’s mother. “I truly do not want this type of tragedy to happen to another innocent family.”
Yet after months of seeing Saavedra in the courtroom, there is some closure in the fact that they will no longer have to see the teen’s killer on what at times in 2011 was on a monthly basis.
“Whatever happens, whether (Saavedra) would have gotten time, it’s not going to bring Dylan back,” said Adriana Nuno. “We’ll have to move on, unfortunately without our Dylan.”
Staff reporter Jacob Carpenter contributed to this report.