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Husband of wrong-way driver doubts she was drinking

David Ramos, left, says his love for his wife, Cheryl Riemann, will withstand the fatal car accident she caused.

Special to the Times

David Ramos, left, says his love for his wife, Cheryl Riemann, will withstand the fatal car accident she caused.

RUSKIN — In cyberspace they are merciless, as usual. They call her an idiot and a murderer. They wish her eternal darkness. They hope her death is swift.

Her two young sons don't know this yet, though they probably will one day. They only know that Mommy got hurt and had to see the doctor. But her husband knows. He reads the news. He realizes that when people see the name Cheryl Maria Riemann now, one phrase comes to mind:

Wrong-way driver.

He is well aware of what happened Wednesday, on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, when Riemann drove east in the westbound lanes and plowed into another car, killing the driver, crushing the legs and injuring the head of the woman's 4-year-old daughter. He said he wishes he could somehow make it up to the other family, although he knows he never can.

Jennifer O'Boyle, 24, of Brandon is the woman who died. A memorial service for her is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Crossing Church, 10130 Causeway Blvd., Tampa.

Her daughter, Summer Moll, remained in critical condition Friday night.

"We're just waiting like everybody else," said her grandmother, Tammy Rosian. "We just ask everybody to keep praying for her, because she really needs your prayers."

The wrong-way driver's husband, David Ramos, said he has been praying for Summer.

He is 28, about two years older than his wife. He is a little angry too. At least he will be if the Florida Highway Patrol is correct in its suspicion that she was drinking before the crash. But he is prepared to love her without condition. She already did the same for him.

They met in middle school, in Plant City. She was a softball pitcher, dark-haired and beautiful, and he was a juvenile delinquent. They fell in love, and she got pregnant. He dropped out and sold drugs and got a gun and fired it and got caught and went off to prison. By then they had two boys together.

"I don't expect you to wait for me," he said before he left for the Panhandle.

But she did. She wrote him at least once a week, sending pictures of the boys when she could. He said he read what she sent, alone in the dark in his cell where he sometimes talked to the shadows, and her letters kept him alive.

When he got out in 2005, she took him right back.

"I think this is forever," he said, and in 2006 they went to the courthouse to make it official.

They got decent jobs: she as a food-quality inspector, he an industrial mechanic, and they saved their money. This year they bought a new house the color of lemon sherbet and put a charcoal grill on the patio and Lucky Charms on top of the refrigerator. The boys spread their blocks on the beige carpet, in a rectangle of afternoon sunlight.

On Wednesday, he left to run some errands and she was still asleep. They both work nights, so they're usually home in the afternoons. He says he has no idea where she was going, but he insists she seldom drinks and is not suicidal.

The crash happened at 2:11 p.m. Five cars were involved. The authorities blame no one but Riemann. Why she drove the wrong way is a mystery for now.

When Ramos heard about it he got on his motorcycle and rushed to Tampa General Hospital. She was full of tubes and her eyes were closed. The doctor said she had a concussion, collapsed lungs, fractures along the spine.

"I love you," he said, and she said nothing, but he knew she could hear him because he saw the tears. The doctor told him to step back because he was getting her too excited.

He said he had heard the victim's family was in the same hospital, and he wanted to offer his condolences, but no one would tell him where to find them.

He says she has no memory of what happened, but when the chaplain told her the searing truth, she became so hysterical that she had to be sedated.

She is expected to make a full recovery, though she faces some serious charges — especially if the blood tests come back positive for alcohol. Unlike her husband, she's not listed in state criminal records.

When he left prison, he promised himself he would never go back.

But on Friday morning, as he held her hand, as he wiped her face with a warm washcloth and spooned banana pudding into her mouth, this is what he told her:

I'd take your place if I could.

I know you would, she said.

Times researcher Will Short Gorham contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3416.

Husband of wrong-way driver doubts she was drinking 09/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 7:17pm]
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