The Miami Herald, 2005-08-11
Section: Metro & State Edition: Final
SARA BLUMENTHAL, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sergio Radillo Sr. lived to see his dream come true: After serving 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, his son walked out of prison.
But Radillo Sr. was only able to spend a little time with the son he fought so hard to get home. On Sunday, he died from cancer. He was 59. “He taught me about unconditional love,” said state Rep. Gus Barreiro, whom Radillo enlisted in the fight to free his son. “It is sad he never got to enjoy his son’s freedom.”
The Cuban immigrant’s life changed forever in 1995 when his oldest son, Sergio Radillo Jr., was convicted of a home invasion robbery and sentenced to life in prison. Radillo Sr. began an 11-year crusade to free his son for a crime he knew he did not not commit.
“The one thing any kid wants is for a parent to believe in him,” Barreiro said. “This father would not give up.”
Radiilois crusade took him to the doors of local politicians and media, pleading with them to take on his son’s case. Week after week, Radillo would come with a file box in his arms to tell his son’s story to anyone who would listen.
Barreiro got weekly visits from Radillo.
Herald reporter Wanda J. DeMarzo was one of those in the media Radillo reached out to. “I really couldn’t do much, but he would still call me every week,” DeMarzo said. “He made me start questioning.”
Radillo sponsored rallies proclaiming the injustice to his son.
Many days, Little Havana residents would hear Radillo shouting his son’s innocence through a bullhorn as he drove through the streets. A large balloon stood outside his home with the words proclaiming his son had been wrongly convicted. Anything to get his message across.
Radillo’s faith never wavered. For more than a decade, the limousine driver dedicated himself to one purpose. He mortgaged his home and took out loans
“He mortgaged everything and lost everything to get his son from behind bars,” said Barreiro.
Finally, people started to listen. They had no choice, Barreiro said. Radillo wouldn’t stop talking. The more people looked into the case, the more it became apparent that perhaps Radillo Jr. really was innocent.
Then came a break in the case. Another state prison inmate admitted taking part in the home invasion and swore Radillo Jr. was not among his accomplices. With that confession, Radillo Jr.’s conviction was set aside and he was released.
In early February, Radillo Sr. had dinner with his son.
“To see the joy in his face that day was breathtaking,” said Barreiro.
Yet Radillo Jr.’s freedom was bittersweet.
One morning in March, the same month the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office declined to retry the case, Radillo woke up and could not walk, his wife said. An MRI showed a fast-moving cancer.
“We lost him four months later,” Ivone Radillo said. “It seems so unfair.”
After fighting so hard for his son, many believe Radillo had little fight left to battle the disease.
“It consumed him and it drained him,” DeMarzo said. “He was very tired.”
In addition to his wife Ivone, Radillo is survived by two sons, Danilo Radillo and Sergio Radillo Jr., who is walking free.
Services were held.
Herald staff writer Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.
Article from the Miami Herald (www.MiamiHerald.com)