SPRING HILL — The car came up fast behind them, swerving down the hill on the dark lane, and there was nowhere for them to go.
The man, woman and their dog went left and right, but the car's headlights seemed trained on them and then they were hit and in the air, tumbling. They landed and heard the car tear through a row of mailboxes along the street without curbs or sidewalks and then it kept going, and the night became quiet again.
"Jessica," Joey Amoroso screamed. He couldn't move and he couldn't see in the blackness. He couldn't hear her or his dog, and he didn't know how long he laid there early Saturday morning, crumpled, yelling, before someone saw them and called 911, and the scene was lit in flashing, silvery light.
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Amoroso and Jessica Lawrence had dated off and on for several years but became serious this past year — about each other and about life. Amoroso, 25, grew up in Tarpon Springs and stole his first car at 15. He racked up 19 arrests in the following years, nothing violent, mostly for drugs, theft and driving with a suspended license.
"He was lost," said Michael Glassberg, 46, whose son, David, is best friends with Amoroso. Glassberg has known Amoroso since he was in the sixth grade and thinks of him as a son. So when he wanted to turn his life around, Glassberg helped him. He bought a cruddy, small trailer for $1,000 off Craigslist and put it on his Spring Hill property — several acres filled with rescued horses, goats, chickens, dogs and cats. Glassberg is a man who believes in second chances, for animals and people.
He let Amoroso and Lawrence live in the mobile home and refused their rent money. "You need to save your money for when you get your own place," he told them. Lawrence, 27, had her share of troubles with drugs and driving on a suspended license. But Glassberg said both of them were clinging to this new life together. "They knew they had to change," he said.
Lawrence moved in with Amoroso about six months ago and made this tiny trailer a home. They put down a carpet and hung up pretty blue curtains and had everything just so. Clothes and socks folded, framed photos, candles, books, many crosses, a key holder that said "FAMILY."
Amoroso had taken up jogging and just ran a 5K sponsored by the YMCA. He got a good job making sandwiches at an Italian eatery, and he rode his bicycle there every day, as he's still not allowed to drive. Lawrence just got her degree to be a medical assistant and got a job at a doctor's office. They have no alcohol in their fridge — just cans of root beer. Their gas stove, clean, wiped down, was the size of a child's play toy. Lawrence put a calendar on the wall and crossed off each day: "Mom's B-day" on the 12th, money orders for bills at Amscot every Wednesday. This Monday they would have had a meeting dealing with their past, though it didn't say whose: "Probation @ 1:30 p.m." October's calendar photo was of the historic courthouse in Brooksville.
Lawrence got scared sometimes being there alone, as the trailer is isolated, so, last week, Amoroso got her a young, sweet pit bull mix they named Kilo. A few days ago, Lawrence told Amoroso she thought she might be pregnant. They were excited.
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A little after midnight on Friday, they decided to take Kilo for a walk and left the radio on, her purse on the counter and their screen door shut, but not locked, and went down their street, Saguaro Lane, and turned right on Monteverde Drive. They were hit less than a mile down the street. The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for information on the car and driver. So far, no arrests have been made.
Lawrence died at the scene. Amoroso was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa with a shattered hip, a broken leg, a black eye, a hole in his lip and other bruises and cuts. Kilo was taken to Pasco Animal Control with cuts on his forehead, and the Glassbergs picked him up Saturday.
Michael Glassberg and his son, David, 27, visited Amoroso in the hospital at dawn Saturday. "You have come so far," David told him. He's been Amoroso's constant friend for 15 years, during all those times he was lost. Without Lawrence, he fears Amoroso will fall again.
"Don't let it be in vain," David Glassberg told him.
But Amoroso just kept saying:
Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.