Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Family of woman killed by motorcycle 'devastated'

BROOKSVILLE — Josefa Rodriguez was doing what she could to live longer than her 73 years. A healthy woman, she took care of herself and went on walks often. Sometimes they were for exercise, and other times she just wanted something from the store and a change of scenery.

Rodriguez was on one of her walks July 28 when she died.

As she crossed Spring Hill Drive heading to Target that morning, authorities say James Conaty sped through a red light on his 2007 Suzuki motorcycle and struck and killed her. Conaty, 30, a Spring Hill resident, sustained serious injuries.

Rodriguez's loved ones, however, are grieving for their lost mother.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to talk about it," Rodriguez's daughter, Carolina Guerra, said in the family's first public comments this week. "I'm destroyed."

Guerra's husband, Joe Costanzo, said his wife and her mother shared a strong bond.

"We don't have any children, but her mom was like her own (child)," he said. "Her mom was her life."

He said she went for walks every day because she had always done so in her native Venezuela. For the past eight years, Rodriguez had been shuttling between Venezuela and United States as she worked to attain permanent residency and join her three children in America; another lives in Venezuela. She had just received her residency in January.

Costanzo said he doesn't understand how someone with a driving record like Conaty's could still be driving.

"It's a shame the cops keep arresting him and the courts keep releasing him," he said. "It's not right."

Conaty's driving record includes three charges of DUI that led to injuries for the other drivers. He also has had speeding and careless driving citations. His license was valid when he killed Rodriguez on July 28.

In April 1999, Conaty was arrested in Tampa on his first DUI charge, records show. A police report stated Conaty swerved into the opposite lane of traffic and struck a 65-year-old man's Buick. The man almost died from head injuries. Conaty had a blood-alcohol level of 0.205, more than twice the threshold at which Florida law presumes that someone is unable to safely drive a motor vehicle.

An investigator noted that beer bottles littered the ground around his wrecked GMC and that it didn't look like Conaty had been wearing a seat belt. He served more than two years in prison and was ordered to pay $510,500 in restitution.

"He took from us someone we loved very much," Costanzo said, adding that he wouldn't hesitate to testify in a trial against Conaty. "He deserves the full extent of the law, whatever that may be."

Steve Gaskins, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, said any potential charges await the release of a toxicology report. He confirmed that Conaty was released from Bayfront Medical Center earlier this week.

Conaty's mother, 50-year-old Maryann Verdi, said her son has a broken back and a punctured spleen. Still, she said he might walk again. Her son told her that he thinks his most recent accident was karma for his 1999 DUI.

She said this week that after speaking to her son about the incident, she feels he did not run the red light or that he was speeding when he hit Rodriguez.

"I want to know who was out there clocking with a radar gun," she said.

Jessica Stuckey, Conaty's cousin, said she was not surprised to hear about the fatality. She said he is basically a good person who makes mistakes and has bad luck with motorcycles.

"It sucks that someone had to die," she said.

Rodriguez's family does not have immediate plans for a memorial.

"The family is too devastated," said Marty Downing, owner of Downing Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Spring Hill.

News researcher Natalie Watson and staff photojournalist Will Vragovic contributed to this report. Melvin Backman can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Family of woman killed by motorcycle 'devastated' 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 7:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Richard Corcoran has a new committee to help him become governor


    Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has opened a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, that may or may not bankroll his campaign for governor in 2018. The Land O'Lakes Republica

    CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Demonstrators protests the passage of a House Republican health care bill, outside the the Capitol in Washington, on May 4. The House took the unusual step of voting on the American Health Care Act before the Congressional Budget Office could assess it. That analysis was released Thursday and it showed the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.
  2. Florida Specialty Insurance acquires Pinellas Park's Mount Beacon Insurance


    Tens of thousands of homeowners who were pushed out of Citizens Property Insurance for a private carrier since 2014 are finding themselves changing insurance companies yet again.

  3. Pope Francis presents Trump with a 'politically loaded gift': His encyclical on climate change

    Global Warming

    VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to make his point with a gift.

    Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday.  [Evan Vucci/Pool via The New York Times]
  4. Tampa police say 41-year-old man shot and killed by ex-boss, investigation ongoing


    TAMPA — A 41-year-old man was shot and killed by his former boss Wednesday morning outside the West Tampa auto body shop where they once worked together, according to Tampa police.