'It Doesn't Seem Right'

The family of José Rincon, 14--hit and killed by a drunk driver--fights for justice

When Glenda Rumsey entered Pima County Superior Court on March 18, 72 friends and family members of 14-year-old José Rincon were there to remind everyone--including Rumsey, a paralegal and mother of two--about the young man she reportedly struck and killed with her 2005 Dodge Magnum off Broadway Boulevard near Vozack Lane on Jan. 12.

His parents, Adriana and José Rincon, say they're shocked that a judge allowed Rumsey to be released on a $50,000 bond on Feb. 1, rather than the $500,000 the prosecutor demanded. According to toxicology reports, Rumsey had a blood-alcohol level of 0.249--more than three times the legal limit--two hours after crashing into Rincon and his friend Oscar Perez as they rode their bikes. Perez was injured in the accident.

The Rincons say they also don't understand why Rumsey--who was charged on Jan. 22 with manslaughter, aggravated assault, leaving the scene after causing a fatal crash and driving under the influence--had her license suspended for only 30 days after the crash, not for the usual 90 days.

"It doesn't seem right," the elder José Rincon says. "I know we can't bring him back, but we can ask the court to do a better job of carrying out justice."

According to Rumsey's attorney, Michael Bloom, he is in the process of investigating the case to prepare for the pre-trial hearing, scheduled for May 14 at 9:30 a.m. He declined to share details regarding his investigation.

"Of course this is a horrendous, horrible tragedy. As you know, this is a criminal case against Mrs. Rumsey which could end up taking several months (to resolve). These are always, always very difficult for the families," Bloom says. "They are in agony over what happened, and we sympathize with that. But the legal system needs to play out in order to meet justice for everyone involved."

The Rincons need justice, not sympathy, Adriana Rincon says, adding that it's hard not to be bitter and consumed by Rumsey and the court system. What's important now is that Tucson and the Superior Court not forget their son, she says.

"Prior to Jan. 12, I can say honestly we lived a very charmed life. I didn't realize how charmed it was until Jan. 13. I knew it was a good life, because we wanted nothing; we needed nothing. We had each other, and we had our health," she says.

His father remembered José as a perfectionist with a quirky side.

"Like his hair. His hair had to be perfect, and if it wasn't, it wasn't a good day," his father says, laughing.

The older José Rincon shows a wooden box, with a picture of Jesus kneeling in prayer painted on the lid. The box was given to the young José by his grandmother when he was 6 years old. At the time, José was worried about the recent death of his great-grandfather. His grandmother told him to write his worries down to God and put them into the box.

"The night of the accident, we rushed into his room; we wanted a piece of him, to be close to him," his father says, holding the wooden box. "We just couldn't believe what had happened. We found this, and we hadn't seen it in several years. We thought it would be empty."

But inside, they found a picture of his mother holding his older sister, Gabriela, when she was only 3; a picture of his father holding José when he was a toddler; and a picture of his baby sister, Julissa.

Beneath the pictures were three pieces of paper that captured more recent events in young José's life. On one, he wrote in Spanish about how nervous he was when he was leaving Davis Bilingual Magnet School to start middle school at St. Michael's Parish School three years ago.

On another, he wrote: "Talked to Julia C. I hope she'll like me," about a fellow classmate at St. Michael's. The third expresses a wish that the family computer remain OK after he broke a family rule of going on Internet sites like MySpace and YouTube.

"For me, it's a lot of pride, because he had a lot of faith, even though he didn't wear it on his sleeve," Adriana Rincon says.

The parents discuss other items--a picture taken in 2003 of their son with Lute Olson when José was named Most Valuable Player at the Wildcats' summer youth basketball camp. The MVP plaque is there, too, along with a letter sent shortly after José's death by a UA official letting the family know the MVP award is being dedicated and named after their son.

Along with José's last report card from St. Michael's--with straight A's--José Rincon holds a small black-and-white photograph that looks like it's been held many times over the past two months. The parents say it shows one of the last times the family celebrated, six weeks to the day before their son lost his life.

Gabriela is dressed in a white gown for her quinceañera , joined by her brother and baby sister, along with her aunt and parents.

The family shows a video taken of the quinceañera , with the family celebrating in their Sam Hughes home's backyard, the siblings playing together in a mariachi group.

"It was one of the happiest moments in our home. Then six weeks later, the backyard at the same house is where we all came together after his funeral," Adriana Rincon says.

Adriana Rincon says the children have gone to group counseling at Tu Nidito, and the family has sought help through a family psychologist and their priest.

"I particularly try to show them a balanced view of grieving. I don't hide when I need to cry. I want them to see us laughing or joking about the funny things he's done," Adriana Rincon says.

Adriana Rincon says comfort also came from meeting witnesses that stopped Rumsey and checked on the boys, after Rumsey allegedly drove onto the shoulder of the road and hit the boys. The Rincons believe their son died instantly.

One witness attended José's rosary and told the Rincons what happened that night. Adriana Rincon says the witness stopped and held José's hand, and whispered in his ear that his mother and father were coming, and that God was with him, too.

"Really, I couldn't ask for anyone better to be with my son in his final moments. She is a mother and a nurse. She said exactly what I would have said if I could have been there."