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Fate tragically brought boy, drunken driver together

Glenda Rumsey appears at a pretrial hearing in Judge Richard Fields courtroom in  Pima County Superior Court last year.

Glenda Rumsey appears at a pretrial hearing in Judge Richard Fields courtroom in Pima County Superior Court last year.

The last few hours of Jose Luis Rincon’s young life were spent with friends.

He and his pal, Oscar Perez, 14, took off on their bicycles on a carefree Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008, to help a mutual friend celebrate her birthday; Jose had turned 14 a month earlier.

Glenda Lorriane Rumsey, then 42, spent the last few hours of Jose’s life drinking with friends at a Mexican restaurant.

Their two lives merged that evening, about quarter past seven, on a darkened East Side street.

Tuesday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields sentenced Rumsey to 14 years in prison for killing Rincon.

She struck shortly after 7 p.m. less than a half-mile east of Harrison Road.

Jose and Oscar were headed east toward Oscar’s father’s house riding their bikes on the shoulder of Broadway, just east of Harrison.

Today, that place is marked with a “ghost bike,” one of several roadside memorials to bicyclists killed on Tucson streets. On a recent afternoon, silver and blue metallic balloons shimmered in the sun, strapped to the handlebars of the white bike sunk into the sand where Jose’s blood spilled.

Rumsey has spent the last month in jail after being convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault and DUI in December.

She worked as a legal assistant to a real estate lawyer, never envisioning that she would be looking at spending the next two decades of her life in prison.

Who is Glenda Rumsey?

Rumsey was born Aug. 18, 1965, in Atascadero, Calif. She moved to Tucson with her family in 1979 and graduated from Catalina High School.

In 1988, she married Sidney Rumsey. The couple moved to New York state before returning to Tucson in 1991.

The couple’s two children were born in Tucson, a daughter in 1996 and a son two years later.

Glenda Rumsey became a paralegal and studied at Pima Community College to obtain certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants. In 2005, she also obtained her real estate license.

In September 2007, Rumsey filed divorce papers against her husband, who works for the city of Tucson. According to court records, the couple agreed to split the house they owned – with Glenda getting an $80,000 share – joint custody of the children, no spousal maintenance or child support.

The divorce became final in November 2007.

Who was Jose Rincon?

Jose Rincon was an eighth-grader at St. Michael’s Parish Day School a year ago.

“From Day 1, he’s always been quirky,” his mother Adriana Rincon said last summer, listing Jose’s accomplishments as a student, a mariachi and an athlete.

The road where Jose learned to ride a bike – Jones Boulevard – has been renamed Guapo Way since his death.

His mother nicknamed him Guapo. The name means handsome. He thought it was embarrassing.

“I would try not to call him that at school,” Adriana Rincon said.

“I can see him in heaven right now, saying ‘Oh my God, how embarrassing.’ I’m sorry. It just gives us so much pride.”

Adriana Rincon and her husband, Jose Rincon Sr., an active member of the El Encanto Estates Homeowners Association, planned to affix a bronze plaque to the wall of their house, at the corner of Jones and Fifth Avenue, to explain who their son was and why Guapo wasn’t just about looks.

“We raised our kids to make a difference,” Adriana Rincon said. “He’s still making a difference.”

What happened

On Jan. 12, 2008, Glenda Rumsey spent several hours at Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler, 7101 E. 22nd St., at Kolb Road. She may have been there up to six hours, court records show.

Around 7 p.m., Rumsey was escorted to her car by a friend, court records show.

The straightest way to her home on East Migratory Place was to drive north on Kolb, turning east on Broadway, roughly a six-mile trip. The turnoff to her house is to the north about halfway between Houghton Road and East Tanque Verde Loop.

Around the same time Rumsey was driving her 2005 Dodge Magnum through the intersection at Broadway and Harrison Road, Jose and Oscar were pedaling their bikes eastward along Broadway toward a little road called Vozack, less than a half mile east of Harrison.

Like many Tucson streets that stretch into the outskirts of the city, Broadway is a multi-lane artery that gradually whittles down from six lanes to four to two.

And, like many Tucson streets, once the pavement reaches the outlying residential areas, away from the strip malls and business complexes, street lights are few.

The sliver of a moon in the sky wasn’t much help on that dark, late-winter desert night.

Jose, who had proudly won an MVP award at former University of Arizona coach Lute Olson’s basketball camp, was wearing a dark blue UA jersey, with white and red-striped UA athletic shorts and white athletic shoes.

Jose was pedaling on the left side of Oscar on his silver bike as the boys approached Vozack Lane.

After Vozack, Broadway takes a bit of a jog to the left. On their way past Vozack, the boys road on the shoulder of the road.

But Rumsey didn’t see that jog in the road, defense attorneys say.

Jose was struck from behind. His body slid across the hood of Ramsey’s Dodge Magnum, his helmetless head striking the passenger side windshield, killing him instantly.

His body was flung to the side of the road.

The impact of the crash tore the fender off Rumsey’s station wagon and left a head-shaped crack in her passenger-side windshield.

Oscar was struck down, too, but whether it was from the car, Jose’s bike or Jose’s body, nobody knows, says Deputy County Attorney Mark Diebolt.

Rumsey continued to drive, but other motorists stopped immediately. Some drivers followed Rumsey’s car, which stopped more than a quarter of a mile away before returning to the crash scene.

Julie M. Jameson was driving westbound on Broadway when she saw Oscar sitting on the south side of the road, according to police reports. Jameson pulled a U-turn and parked on the south side of the road.

Illuminated in her headlights were two crumpled bikes and the form of another boy lying on the ground.

Jameson got out of her car and approached Oscar, who walked toward her. Jameson called police and learned officers were en route. She worried about being able to contact Oscar’s parents for him, police reports say.

Jose was lying on the side of the road, mostly on his back – his neck, back and legs awkwardly twisted. Jameson could tell he was badly injured.

He was unresponsive; Jameson decided not to move him, for fear of making his injuries worse.

Jameson stayed with Oscar to comfort him as police officers and paramedics arrived.

Police arrive

Within minutes, not only did Tucson police officers and paramedics arrive, but Rumsey returned to the crash scene and parked the damaged Magnum across the street from where Jose’s body lay.

Officer Sean Cleary of TPD’s DUI unit crossed the street to talk with Rumsey, who asked about Jose’s condition. Cleary said he didn’t know how the boy was.

Cleary noted in his report that Rumsey showed signs of intoxication including slurred speech, an odor of alcohol and an upper body sway.

“While standing there, she kept telling me both that she did not know what happened,” Cleary wrote later in his report, “and that she could not (believe) that they pulled out in front of her.”

Cleary asked if Rumsey had been drinking. She said she hadn’t been.

Cleary told her he wanted to perform an eye-gaze test used to help determine intoxication, which didn’t turn up any cues for drunkenness.

Cleary said he wanted Rumsey to perform some field sobriety tests.

Rumsey asked what would happen if she refused.

Cleary said she couldn’t refuse, but he also couldn’t physically force her to perform them, either, according to his report.

Rumsey then asked to speak to her attorney.

Rumsey left a message with veteran DUI attorney Stephen Paul Barnard and spoke to her boss, real estate attorney Jeff Katz, who agreed to come down to the crash scene.

Cleary read Rumsey’s Miranda rights to her and, when Katz didn’t arrive within 20 minutes, made arrangements to take Rumsey to TPD’s East Side station to take blood draws.

At the station, Rumsey expressed surprise that Cleary was going to be the one drawing blood. Cleary, a certified phlebotomist, told Rumsey officers were “high tech” these days and cross-trained, according to his report.

Rumsey laughed.

“Don’t mind me,” she said, according to Cleary’s report. “I’m just drunk.”

Rumsey also observed how quiet the stationhouse was.

“Must be a slow Saturday,” she said, according to Cleary. “I’m the only drunk in here tonight.”

Blood test results

Cleary took three blood draws an hour apart.

The first came back .249, three times the legal limit of .08.

The second came back .225 and the third, .210, according to toxicology reports.

Rumsey was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and leaving the scene of the accident. DUI charges would be added later after toxicology tests came back.

At her initial appearance the next morning, prosecutors asked for a $500,000 bond, but a Tucson City Court judge reduced that to $50,000. Rumsey posted bond and was freed from jail.

Rumsey eventually was indicted on charges of manslaughter, a lesser charge than second-degree murder; aggravated assault; leaving the scene of an accident; and DUI.

Jose’s family was enraged at the low bond, especially several months later when traces of alcohol were found in her system. A higher bond of $75,000 was set and Rumsey was warned about complying with terms of her release.

Still, in the fall, Rumsey was back in court before Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard S. Fields with another alcohol violation.

Rumsey was allowed to remain free, but her driving privileges were restricted and she was ordered to install an interlock device in her car.

Rumsey’s trial attorneys, Barnard and Michael Bloom, fought in pretrial hearings to get as much of the evidence dismissed as they could.

Fields ruled jurors weren’t allowed to hear Rumsey’s statements at the police station that she was drunk or that she violated terms of her pretrial release by consuming some alcohol.

However, Fields denied defense motions to move the trial out of the county because of pretrial publicity.

He also prevented defense attorneys from telling jurors that had Jose been wearing a helmet, as minors are required under city and county laws, he might have lived.

The trial

At Rumsey’s trial last month, prosecutor Diebolt told jurors that Rumsey was solely at fault because she failed to observe a change in the road due to her drunkenness.

“The roads are not designed for drunk drivers,” Diebolt said in his opening statement. “They’re designed for sober drivers.

“There were large arrows on the road and signs designed to shine at night and warn drivers of the coming merging.”

Defense attorneys maintained that the jog in the road, amid other outside factors, led to the fatal crash, not just Rumsey’s drinking. They said at the most, she should be convicted of negligent homicide, not manslaughter.

“Had the defendant been drinking?” Barnard said in his opening statement. “Yes, there is no question about it.

“But evidence will show that there were a number of factors that came together to create this horrible tragedy.”

The trial began Dec. 3 and closing arguments were delivered a week later.

The verdict

On Dec. 11, on what would have been Jose Rincon’s 15th birthday, jurors deliberated two hours before rendering a verdict: Guilty on all charges except leaving the scene of the accident.

Juror Pat Nichols of Green Valley said the jury considered each charge. They didn’t convict her for leaving the scene of the accident, believing the gravity of the situation didn’t register immediately with Rumsey, Nichols said.

“I felt sad for all of those in the situation,” said Nichols. “It was an unfortunate thing.

“But basically, we felt we had done the right thing. We know we did the right thing.”

Both boys’ families have filed lawsuits against Rumsey; JBL Restaurant Investments, which owns Chuy’s; and the city of Tucson.

Rumsey’s ex-husband filed for full custody of their two children in September, saying his ex-wife was “facing incarceration” and was unwilling to sign over custody.

In November, Rumsey said she would stipulate to the children’s custody if she were imprisoned, but Sidney Rumsey wouldn’t agree to it, court records show.

On Dec. 16, five days after she was convicted, Glenda Rumsey agreed to give up custody of her children, court records show.

Jose Rincon

Jose Rincon

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