Seeing Things

Manuel Duasso has achieved a semblance of normality in the decade since he was blinded. The same can't be said of his assailant.

Having abandoned the rehab program after a conflict with the directors over his insistence on staying up one night to pray in defiance of strict lights-out rules, he is back at his father's house. His bedroom, like the living room and the dining room, shows few signs of habitation; only a few shirts hang in the closet, along with one of his sister-in-law's dresses. He says he'll begin looking for work soon, preferably at a nearby hospital. "I'm going to wait on the Lord," Lamigueiro explains, paraphrasing Isaiah. "They that wait on the Lord shall mount up with wings like an eagle."

Four days after he shot Manuel Duasso, Lamigueiro returned to his parents' house near Bird Drive Park. He was filled with a sense of foreboding and inevitability. "All I could think about was that I was going to prison," he remembers. Metro-Dade police detectives had canvassed the middle-class neighborhood around the park (which has since been renamed A.D. Barnes Park) and had left a business card at the Lamigueiros. His father, Lamigueiro recalls, admonished him, "Son, the truth will set you free. If it was you, tell them." That night at about 10:30, he told his father and mother the truth. They called the detective whose name was on the business card, then made coffee and sat down at the glass-topped dining room table to wait for the police to arrive. "It was one of the most dreadful nights of my life," Lamigueiro says. "My parents were devastated completely."

Although he had no prior criminal record, Lamigueiro was classified as an adult and sentenced to two concurrent seventeen-year terms for attempted first-degree murder and attempted robbery with a firearm. His fourteen-year-old accomplice, who testified against him, wasn't charged. The teen was shipped to Brevard Correctional Institute in February 1986. In a separate civil lawsuit filed later by Duasso, Lamigueiro was ordered to pay $3.5 million restitution. (Duasso has never made any attempt to collect; he says he filed the lawsuit as a "symbolic way of saying criminals are in debt to their victims for the rest of their lives.")

His five years in prison were not good ones for Lamigueiro's family. "Due to problems with [Fernando] and our younger son, my wife and I divorced," says Fernando Lamigueiro, Sr., pain subduing his words. His work at a Christian publishing firm suffered, the senior Lamigueiro says. He left the company and has spent the past few years free-lancing as a desktop publisher. "It's like a sore scar that sometimes you run your hand over," he says of the ordeal, "and it hurts."

Manuel Duasso and his family and friends always refer to his shooting as "the accident." And it was, in many ways, just that: a random, violent collision. Lamigueiro shot Duasso, he says now, "because he was there. I didn't need money -- I was just showing off."

Duasso was two years old when his parents immigrated from Camagey, Cuba, in 1963. A brother, Jose, was born two years later. Duasso's father, Manuel Sr., recently retired after fifteen years as maintenance manager for the City of Sweetwater and was elected to the city council in May. His mother, Maria Duasso, had been an elementary school teacher in Camagey. "She always encouraged me to enlighten people, teach people," Duasso says.

Three months after the "accident," Duasso moved to the Daytona Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, in Daytona Beach. For six months he lived in his own apartment, relearning everyday skills and battling loneliness and depression. "There is where I think the whole impact of everything hit," he says. "I dealt with all the pain and depression myself; I had always been one of those little Cuban kids who is surrounded by friends and family members and never out of the house very much." Some of his students sent him tapes, which invariably caused him to "cry my little head off." One of the tapes Angel Menes sent "really made a difference," Duasso recalls. "He said, 'You have to see yourself as the same person you used to be, except you have that one little problem.' I thought that was great advice from a sixth grader, because I thought I was a horrible person."

Ciri Diaz met Duasso in 1986 at the church they both attended, Westchester Christian. "We were both Sunday school teachers, and we used to talk after class," recalls Ciri, a slender 32-year-old with brown shoulder-length hair and wide dark eyes. "He was always very happy, very confident of who he was. He'd play jokes. I thought he was a wonderful person."

At the time, Duasso and a friend were writing a play they planned to stage at the church, and he asked Ciri to play the female lead. (He would play the male lead, her blind father.) Every Monday, rehearsal night, Ciri brought a pint of Ben & Jerry's White Russian ice cream to share with Manny backstage. At some point amid the acting and the ice cream, they fell in love. They wed in November 1987 in front of 600 guests at the First Presbyterian Church of Miami on Brickell Avenue. "That was the beginning of a wonderful life for me," Ciri says.

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