PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – A 24-year-old man who detectives are accusing of killing a Miami Herald editor’s father told Broward County Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon that he was going to represent himself in court on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale.
Wesley James Perez told Cawthon that he didn’t need a public defender. He denied having shot 92-year-old Fernando Frias, who officers found dead on Sunday night in a home in the Pembroke Pines’ Tanglewood Lakes community, where Perez lived with his mother.
“Your Honor, these charges are defamation of character,” Perez said, adding that he needed 30 to 45 days to hire a defense attorney.
When Pembroke Pines police officers met Perez on Saturday, he had jumped into his swimming pool fully clothed and was soaking wet when he “made numerous statements" that officers later realized were related to the murder, according to the arrest report.
The officers gave Detective Bradley Hyatt, who is investigating Frias’ murder, the body cam video of their interaction with Perez. Detectives also have surveillance video showing Perez at the home where Frias died.
Eddie Alvarez, who lives in the neighborhood, said he and his wife heard the shooting about 2 or 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“She was taking a nap and she woke up to the shots,” Alvarez said.
Neighbors also saw the officers interacting with Perez. Officers said he was combative when they decided to detain him, according to the report. He received medical attention at Memorial Regional Hospital. Officers said he was released about 1:40 p.m. on Sunday.
Officers found Frias dead about 9:30 p.m., Sunday, at 10010 SW 6th Ct. Detectives reported the home’s front door was unlocked and there were multiple shell casings and an empty magazine for a .40 Glock.
Broward Sheriff’s Office records show Perez was arrested about 9:45 p.m. on Monday. Officers took him to Broward County Main Jail and filed the arrest report early Tuesday morning.
Alvarez said he and his wife were grieving the loss. He said Frias was very friendly with all of his neighbors and losing him in that way was a sad tragedy.
“He lost his wife a few months ago and he was there by himself,” Alvarez said about Frias’s visit to his former home.
Carlos Frias, the victim’s son, is an author who works as a Miami Herald food and dining editor. He told The Miami Herald his Cuban father no longer lived at the Pembroke Pines home, and the accused killer was a former neighbor who had helped him with yard work a few times.
“He and his four brothers, the guajiros from the country, made a name for themselves -- the Frias of Marianao -- as cafe owners and entrepreneurs,” Carlos Frias wrote about his father’s days in Havana in his book, “Take Me With You.”
Perez, who was born in Hialeah, has a criminal history. He was arrested for driving under the influence in 2017 and in 2012. Now he is facing a premeditated murder charge in Frias’ death. On Wednesday, Cawthon ordered that he be held without bond.
Detectives are still working on the case and they are asking anyone with information to call 954-431-2200 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.