SOUTH MIAMI – Derek Medina appeared to live much of his life online.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound South Miami resident posted photos and videos of himself kick boxing, sailing, meeting celebrities and wearing a Miami Heat championship ring. In one Facebook photo, he mugged for the camera, holding a knife and a gun and wearing a green camouflage vest.
There was also what he called his “emotional” side: One of the six e-books the 31-year-old wrote and promoted on his website discussed the importance of communication to a good marriage.
On Thursday, Medina’s Web-based persona took a nefarious turn: First he apparently posted a message on his page in which he confessed to killing his 26-year-old wife, Jennifer Alfonso. Moments later, a gruesome photo appeared on the page: a woman wearing black leotards slumped over on the floor with blood on her face and arm, her knees bent and her legs bent back behind her.
Several hours later, Facebook officials had taken down the page and Medina had turned himself in to police. Wearing a green jumpsuit, he appeared via video Friday before Miami Judge Maria Elena Verde, who ordered him held without bond on a first-degree murder charge. He is being represented by the public defender’s office. A lawyer from the office told him to not discuss the case with anyone.
Neither Medina nor Alonso had criminal records prior to her death. Their relationship appeared rocky, however.
Public records show they first married in January 2010, divorced in February 2012, then remarried three months later. In March 2012, Medina bought the couple’s condominium unit for $107,000.
Medina seemed to share some of these experiences in a 41-page e-book titled “How I Saved Someone’s Life and Marriage and Family Problems Thru Communication,” which recounts the marriage of a man and a woman who divorced, then remarried – and in between times had frightening encounters with aliens and ghosts.
“The author was with his wife in New York and his wife was attacked by a ghost,” Medina wrote on a personal blog. “She was seeing a ghost and was being taunted and messed with. She informed her husband and he told her to go to sleep and he would watch over her. Minutes later he was attacked by a demon ghost and he was sick and throwing up.”
A self-described fan of ghost hunting, Medina wrote on his Facebook page that he and Alfonso had once searched for ghouls in Florida and Louisiana. Other adventures included an encounter with bats in a cave in the Bahamas. A video he posted shows Medina throwing an object at the winged mammals before they fly toward him.
Acting was also a part of his life, according to Medina, who claimed to have appeared in the Miami-based crime drama “Burn Notice,” though his name doesn’t appear in online credits for the show.
His work life, according to his Facebook page, included a job as property management supervisor at The Gables Club, a gated, upscale condominium complex in Coral Gables. An official for the company who refused to identify himself said Friday that Medina worked there “briefly,” but declined to elaborate on when or why he left the job.
A maintenance worker, who would not give his name, said he had seen Medina working at the front desk, taking care of calls and the tenants. He said was “a very nice guy, polite.”
When he saw the news this morning and Medina’s picture, the worker said, “It can’t be. He’s too nice.”
Yoshi Dade, 33, a neighbor of Medina’s at the townhouse complex where he lives in South Miami, said Medina approached him more than a year ago while Dade was working out. Dade said Medina told him he was the neighborhood watch patrol. He also told Dade he had a concealed weapons permit. Those claims could not be confirmed immediately.
Neighborhood watch became a household phrase following the arrest of former watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last month of all charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in a gated townhouse complex in central Florida. Zimmerman shot Martin following a confrontation between the two while Zimmerman was on patrol.
Of Medina, Dade said, “He would walk around here and kinda patrol the area. He was always telling me there was a lot of stuff going on around here.”
Dade thought the incident was bizarre and had only a few other interactions with Medina after that.
“He was just different,” Dade said.
Neighbors said Medina was very private and never said hello.
Lori Wilkinson saw the couple and their daughter several times at the apartment’s pool and mailbox and said they seemed like a nice family.
A neighbor who only identified herself as Sylvia said she was shocked.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking of her,” Sylvia said, although she said she did not know the couple.
Medina wrote several Facebook postings on Thursday about his wife, who was a waitress at Denny’s.
“Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys, miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news,” said one post.
To Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston, the grim postings were Medina’s way of communicating his pain.
“This looked to me like someone who was in a lot of emotional distress who was actually confessing,” she said. “Facebook and social technologies are really, for a lot of people, the go-to means of communication.”
On July 25, a photo of a bloody body part showed up as the profile picture on the Facebook page of former Tampa, Fla., wrestler Brian McGhee. Hours later, he was charged with killing an ex-girlfriend.
According to Medina’s arrest affidavit, he and Alfonso got into a heated argument in an upstairs bedroom of their condominium, at which point he grabbed a gun and pointed it at her. He said Alfonso left the bedroom, then later returned to tell him she was leaving him. Medina then went downstairs and confronted Alfonso in the kitchen, where she began punching him, the affidavit says.
Medina went back upstairs to get his gun. When he returned with it, Alfonso grabbed a knife. Medina said in the affidavit that he was able to wrestle the knife away and put it in a drawer, but that she began punching him again. It was then that he shot her several times, according to the affidavit.
A Facebook post about the slaying went out to friends at 11:11 a.m. Thursday.
Then came the photo, titled “Rip Jennifer Alfonso:” a woman in black leotards slumped on the floor who looked like she had fallen backward from a kneeling position, with her legs bent to her sides and blood on her left arm and left cheek. The photo was up for more than five hours before Facebook removed the page late Thursday afternoon.