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Tampa couple reports $35,000 loss in home invasion

Juan and Osilia Rodriguez don’t expect to recover the stolen money. “That’s been spent,” she said. “Probably drugs.”

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Juan and Osilia Rodriguez don’t expect to recover the stolen money. “That’s been spent,” she said. “Probably drugs.”

TAMPA — For decades, 86-year-old Juan Rodriguez drove a city street sweeper and worked as a University of Tampa janitor.

He and his wife, Osilia, 81, spent money when necessary but saved when possible, hiding cash at home.

Three years ago, Mr. Rodriguez bought a fireproof safe. The money went inside, along with a deed, a will and burial plans.

Thursday, two robbers ransacked the house. They took jewelry and a pistol. And they found the small safe, hidden in a closet beneath boxes of shoes.

From the couch, Mr. Rodriguez struggled against his duct tape bonds. There was no hope. He later told police what they lost.

Close to $35,000.

• • •

It's not that the Rodriguezes mistrust banks. They just didn't use them.

She explains that cash made paying bills easier.

He just shrugs his shoulders.

"They're from that generation," said their niece Lollie Ward.

The couple grew up in Tampa, where they raised six children. In 1960, they moved into their home around the corner from the Alessi Bakery.

Mrs. Rodriguez always felt safe. They've never been robbed before — not until 2:50 a.m. Thursday.

As usual, her husband was leaving for work at the University of Tampa. He had to be there early, to open buildings. She was behind him, ready to lock the door.

It was dark outside and he didn't see the two figures waiting on the porch.

A man pushed him back into the house. He fell on his wife. One of the robbers duct taped Mr. Rodriguez from his wrists to his elbows. He says he begged them not to do the same to his more frail wife.

"She's sick," he remembers saying.

One man monitored the couple while the other rummaged through the house, all the while yelling, "Where's the money?"

He soon found the safe.

At that moment, the husband knew their money was gone.

He shrugs, "What was I going to do?"

The robbers left and Mrs. Rodriguez called 911. A police officer pulled the duct tape off Mr. Rodriguez.

Tampa police released details of the crime Tuesday.

Detectives are searching for the robbers, described as Hispanic males in their early 20s. One is about 5 feet 8, 150 pounds, with a thin face and dark eyes. The other man is about 5 feet 6 and 150 pounds, police say.

But even if they're caught, Mrs. Rodriguez doesn't expect she'll see the money again.

"That's been spent," she said. "Probably drugs."

• • •

Tuesday, the couple sat in their home, surrounded by dozens of figurines, collected over the years, and pictures of family. They have 16 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Quinceañeras, weddings and graduations are memorialized on wood-paneled walls. Family stops by to visit, to make sure they're all right.

They are. Shaken, but all right.

"I thank God nothing happened to my family," Mrs. Rodriguez said.

Neither dwells on the money.

"Their kids are upset, but they're calm," their niece said. "It's probably their age. They've been through life."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

An earlier version of this story reported an incorrect age for Mr. Rodriguez.

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How to help

Police ask that anyone with information about the crime call them at (813) 231-6130 or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Tampa couple reports $35,000 loss in home invasion 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:42pm]
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