BY LAURA ISENSEE
The day after Christmas, Juchen Martial wanted to celebrate his 19th birthday.
So he and four friends from their Little Haiti neighborhood rented a Hialeah motel room Sunday for a night of fun and fast food.By 2 p.m., a hotel maid discovered all five teenagers dead, apparently poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes.
The car they had driven — a red Kia Optima — was left running in the bottom-floor, single-car garage. The door to the interior stairway leading to the room on the second floor was opened slightly, allowing the odorless, deadly fumes to seep upstairs.
“It seems like this is a tragic accident,” said Hialeah police spokesman Carl Zogby.The car engine was still running when Hialeah police and firefighters arrived at the hotel Monday afternoon.
The victims were: Martial, who turned 19 on Sunday; Evans Charles, 19; Jonas Antenor, 18; Peterson Nazon, 17; and Jean Pierre Ferdinand, 16.The car belonged to another buddy, who had lent them the car for the birthday getaway.The five were found in their street clothes on or around a bed.
Bags of McDonald’s, some of the food still uneaten, were in the room.The teens had checked in Sunday at about 9 p.m. to the Hotel Presidente, 1395 SE Eighth Ct., near Miami International Airport and off of Okeechobee Road. Rooms rent for $62 a night.
Earlier in the night, the borrowed Kia had been giving them trouble. About an hour before they checked in, another friend, Maxon Ofea, 18, had jumped the car battery.”They thought the car wouldn’t start. That’s the reason it happened,” Ofea said, who grew up with the other teens.”Right now we should all be hanging out,” Ofea added.Friend Richard Dalce, 26, said the group decided to leave the car running to keep the battery charged.”They didn’t want to cut the car off,” Dalce said.Dalce, Ofea and about a dozen friends and family mourned outside the Hotel Presidente Monday evening.
“They killed my son, they killed my son,” Immacula Nazon, 38, cried out in Creole in the motel parking lot. Peterson, 17, was her youngest of three children, and her only son.
“I feel so bad because all this morning I called the phone. Nobody answered the phone,” Nazon said. Patricia Nazon, 22, said she had told her brother to stay home when she heard about the motel plan. “I was like, ‘What are you going to get a hotel for. Just stay home . . . His friends were like let’s go, let’s go,” Patricia Nazon said.
Her brother and the other teens were apparently longtime friends from their Little Haiti neighborhood. Juchen Martial was born in Cap-Haitien and came to Miami when he was 6 years old, said uncle Patrick Martial, who helped raise Juchen both in Haiti and Miami. He described his nephew as quiet and someone who listened. “When you talked to him and said ‘Juchen, don’t do that,’ he would say ‘yes, OK,’ ” said Martial, who said his nephew worked at a local Wendy’s and was hoping to soon earn a high school degree.
On Saturday, the family gathered for Christmas. Patrick Martial called his nephew on Sunday, his birthday, and Juchen told him that he was going to the mall. He later tried calling Juchen again, but he never answered his phone. Police are still investigating the deaths, but authorities believe carbon monoxide caused the deaths.