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Sentinel: A rage that consumes

(Part of the Orlando Sentinel series, Blood in the Streets)

Letters from colleges across the country still arrive addressed to the dead son of Jessica Rodriguez and George Torres.

Each one is a reminder of the life that could have been for the boy who wanted to be the nation’s first Puerto Rican president. He had aspirations that were greater than the time life permitted him.

Anthony Rodriguez had the grades, the charisma, the smarts and the style any high-schooler would desire. He played football — No. 42 — was popular and a big brother to his five siblings.

He was the thread that bound his blended family together. But with his death, that thread has unraveled.

Anthony’s parents separated. His brothers and sisters were broken. His father fights against a desire to exact his own brand of justice. His mother can’t relish life any longer. She doesn’t want to move on.

It began with panicked pounding at the front door by a friend who went to school with both Anthony, 15, and his brother Miguel, also 15.

The friend’s frozen face was enough for a mother to know: Something had happened to her boys.

Still in her pajamas, Rodriguez bounded to the bus stop where her sons were walking that foggy November morning in 2010. A driver, who friends say was drunk, had struck them and kept going.

Miguel was injured and lying deep in a grassy ditch. Anthony was nowhere in sight.

But Rodriguez could hear him gurgling blood and followed the sound of his gasps for air. She found him facedown and dying.

The trip to the hospital, the terrified tears of her younger children, her husband’s attempts to comfort her and the doctors’ grim prognosis — all of it dulled her senses.

With each hour, her rage hardened. The closer she came to accepting her baby boy was dead, the more she sheltered herself from the looming cyclone of pain.

Her eyes went blank. Her tears turned hot. Her feelings numbed. She pushed everyone away.

“I gave up,” Rodriguez said. “On everything,” Torres added.

The hardest part has been waiting for the trial of the man accused of killing their son. Eric James Wydra was charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of the accident.

What’s enraging, his parents say, is knowing how disappointed Anthony would be at what has happened to his family. But they don’t know what else to do. He’s gone.

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Original article in the Orlando Sentinel

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