By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Wrobel turned himself in to traffic investigator Cpl. Gonzalo Peña this past June 27. The security technician was slapped with two felony counts of DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. During a brief phone conversation this past October 15, Wrobel declined to comment, referring New Timesto his attorney, Joseph Pappacoda, who did not respond to phone messages left with his secretary and on his office voicemail over the span of two weeks.
According to documents filed by Pappacoda as well as Wrobel's 2002 divorce file the Chicago native holds a bachelor's degree in electronic management from Southern Illinois University. He joined the Marines and was honorably discharged in 1987. Two years later he married Gladys Rivera. In 1991 the couple had their first child, Casimir Jr. They have another son, thirteen-year-old Luis. In 1995 the Wrobels moved to Miami-Dade. A year later the elder Casimir was hired by ADT.
In 2002 the couple divorced, citing irreconcilable differences. Casimir and Gladys agreed to share custody of their children.
Life has become even more difficult for the ex-Marine since the accident. ADT fired him upon learning he was driving a company vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Wrobel has been unable to spend time with his sons and has not paid his $1000-per-month child support payments.
Render, a lanky red-bone, was probably biking to a 24-hour convenience store on the west side of South Dixie Highway when Wrobel plowed into him, Render's friends say. David Mann, the victim's roommate and childhood friend, had just come home when his niece told him someone had been hit by a car on the highway. Mann and his wife Chetawn shared with Render a two-bedroom apartment on SW 120th Avenue and 220th Street. "I went to the traffic light and I seen [Render's] hat lying on the road," the 45-year-old Mann recalls. "So I asked the police officer where [Render] was, and he told me he was down on 230th Street."
Mann and Chetawn walked to 230th Street, where police had pulled over Wrobel. There they saw Render's body, covered up, lying on the van's passenger side. "The hood was bent inward," Mann describes, "like he hit a tree or another car, not a person."
Mann was devastated. "He was like a brother to me. We grew up together in this neighborhood. It hurts."
Render graduated from Mays Senior High (now a middle school) in Goulds and was drafted by the army to serve in Vietnam. The partially bald, goateed Render was dressed in an olive green suit and white gloves when he was laid to rest this past April 22. His body was viewed at Jay Funeral Home, and the eulogy service was held at the Goulds Temple Church of God in Christ. "There was a veil over him," remembers Chetawn. "He looked like he was sleeping. Sam was such a good man."
Render's neighbor Stanley Lashley says Render had worked at odd electrical jobs, spent time with his grandson, played his blues record collection, and shared war stories. "Otis Redding, James Brown," Lashley recalls. "You name it, he had it." Lashley met Render six years ago. They became instant buddies.
Render's regular wardrobe consisted of fatigues and orthopedic shoes from the veteran's hospital. He did not have a car and relied on his bicycle for transportation. "Sam was always cruising around," says Lashley, who last saw his neighbor the night before he perished. "He loved his bike."
Like his deceased friend, Lashley has first-hand experience with a runaway vehicle. In 2000 he was the victim of a hit-and-run. He was on the sidewalk near SW 304th Street and South Dixie Highway in Homestead sometime after 5:00 in the morning. "I was on my way to work," Lashley says. "I was going to catch a bus. Before I made it to U.S. 1, I heard a vehicle coming behind me."
Lashley didn't bother to turn around because he was on the sidewalk. He assumed the car was on the street. "Then boom!" Lashley continues. "Next thing I know, I'm knocked into these bushes and I pass out."
When he regained consciousness, Lashley says he crawled into the street and then pulled himself back. "I realized someone could hit me again," he says. "I was wearing a red-and-white jacket, so I took it off, started waving it so someone could see me."
He tried to stand. "But this leg wasn't moving jack!" Lashley banters, holding his left thigh. "My tibia, my knee, and my hip were broken." Then he fainted again. The next time he woke up, he was surrounded by fire-rescue personnel. "That was the day I won the Lotto," he cracks, "because I'm alive to talk about it."
Lashley, who is missing his top front teeth and has surgical scars running down his left leg, lost his job and spent several months in rehab at Homestead Hospital and Coral Reef Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "Finally my insurance ran out, and they shipped me out to a shelter where I lived for nine months," he says. "Thank God I got my disability."
Lashley is convinced the driver who hit him was inebriated. "For someone to hit me at that hour of the morning and keep booking, they had to be drunk," he opines. Yet he bears no animosity or ill will toward the person who barreled into him. "I know what it is like to have something eat at your conscience," he says. "It can bother you for a long time. So that's why I forgive the person who did it."