I’m writing to wish everyone a Happy New Year and address an issue I consider of great importance. The past year was a difficult one for all of us, and as many of you know it was particularly terrible for myself and my family.

Eight months ago, a horrific tragedy occurred which led to the lives of our family being changed forever. On May 7, 2020, my son Daniel suffered a psychotic break and attacked his family, leading to the death of his younger brother, Pascal. Daniel has struggled through years of mental illness [which] was further exacerbated at the beginning of last year.

In the depths of grief from what had occurred, Daniel tried multiple times to take his own life, nearly succeeding when he ran into traffic and was hit by a car. Thankfully he survived due to the miraculous intervention of a Good Samaritan who recognized he had stopped breathing and resuscitated him. Daniel survived and was hospitalized in a coma for over three weeks, at the end of which he was charged as an adult, despite being 17 and legally a juvenile.

Since then he has been incarcerated in the Monroe County jail in Key West, an adult detention center, with serious consequences to his mental health and physical well-being. Most significantly, for many months Daniel was not provided with mental health therapy, follow-up care for his head injury and suffered with a serious respiratory problem, the latter issue causing him to be in a Miami hospital for most of September. During his near month-long hospitalization Daniel was prohibited from any contact with myself or other family members, only one of many extended periods since being incarcerated in June that he has been kept in social isolation from his loved ones.

Due to Daniel’s ongoing problems, I sent a letter to the Monroe County State Attorney and his assistant state attorneys at the end of last November, addressing my concerns and asking to discuss how things can be done better for Daniel, a desire which I have expressed regularly since the May 7 incident, including before he was even officially in custody. For more than five weeks I received no reply so reached out again at the beginning of this month to insist on having a discussion.

During a lengthy call on Jan. 6, I reminded the two prosecutors charged with the case about the very real mitigating factors related to mental illness, which contributed to this tragedy, and highlighted the seriousness of the problems which Daniel has faced over the seven months he has been held in detention. Despite their acknowledgement of these facts, and the reality of Daniel being a child, the prosecutors remain resolved in charging Daniel as an adult with second-degree murder and conceded the possibility of seeking more serious charges.

I recognize these officials are not ill intentioned, but feel strongly that they continue to overlook very significant factors in Daniel’s case. [M]ental illness and the inappropriate decisions of state agencies involved in Daniel’s life played a major role in this tragedy, and these issues have thus far not been adequately factored into how his case has been handled.

The actions Daniel is accused of committing on May 7 didn’t reflect an intention to hurt his brother, but stemmed from a deeply disturbed mental state which prevented him from comprehending the consequence of his behavior at that moment. The truth is that no one loved Pascal more than Daniel or is more devastated by his loss. It’s also true that Pascal would never want his brother’s chance at a meaningful life thrown away, which is the likely outcome of how the case is currently being pursued.

At the beginning of this new year, with so many terrible situations in our country and the world, I respectfully ask that you take action to improve one in our own Florida Keys community by helping Daniel have a future, not a life wasted in prison. As Daniel’s father this is my wish for him, and as someone who understood best Pascal’s love for his brother, I know deeply that he would want a positive future for Daniel as well.

As many of you know, Pascal was a young man with a remarkable level of care for people and for issues that mattered to him, including animal rights, environment advocacy and social justice. Compassion and empathy for others was Pascal’s way and is what Pascal would want for Daniel, a way forward focused on love, forgiveness and a chance for redemption.

Ariel Poholek, father of Daniel and Pascal Weisberger, Islamorada

[Editor’s note: Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay has previously stated that Daniel Weisberger is “clear of sight and sound of adult inmates” at the Monroe County Detention Center and that his office is “committed to provide him with adequate health care and counseling programs.”]

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