A mortuary worker who hadn't seen his girlfriend in about a week made a horrible discovery while on the job _ he recognized her corpse at the county morgue.
Jose "Nico" Rodriguez, an errand runner at Florida Mortuary, was at the morgue because a co-worker had asked him to help retrieve a body. While there, he glimpsed the bullet-marked body of 38-year-old Teresa Valladares, and made the identification for police.
Police said Valladares died on April 19, shot by another apparent boyfriend, Abelado Alorio Morales, 72. Morales then killed himself with the same gun.
Rodriguez, 69, said he and Valladares had an on-again, off-again relationship for 16 years. Even though they never married, he considered Valladares his wife. They met in Orlando in 1981 and moved between there and Miami for the next 10 years.
The last several years of Valladares' life were troubled ones. She spent more time on the streets than at home and battled drug and alcohol addictions.
The state took custody of her children. She had been arrested at least 18 times in the past nine years for cocaine possession, burglary, prostitution, larceny, loitering, trespassing and drinking in public.
Rodriguez thinks it was divine intervention that brought him to the medical examiner's office that day. Now he visits her grave every week.
"I think God sent me there to help a friend so that I could find Teresa," Rodriguez said. "I think that God proves he exists, and this was one of the proofs."