Robert Zimmerman is a retired magistrate living like a fugitive.
He stays in hotels under assumed names. He pays cash so no one will look at his surname and make the connection: This is the father of one of the nations most controversial murder defendants.
Its been unimaginable, he said Monday. Our lives will never be the same.
Zimmerman, 64, is the father of George Zimmerman, the Central Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who faces a second-degree murder charge for the Feb. 26 killing of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin.
The high school students death exploded into a politically volatile case, the kind that drives thousands to the streets in protest the kind that brings hate mail. Rattled by death threats and shaken by personal information posted on the web, Zimmerman, his wife and his mother-in-law with Alzheimers are now on the run, waiting for the trial they are convinced will exonerate their son.
All of a sudden, its pack up what you can and leave, he said. Staying in this hotel room or that hotel room.
His life upside down and expenses soaring, the retired magistrate wants the public to be clear that he has not received a cent of donations from anyone, despite the $204,000 his son has amassed through a website to help pay for his defense. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Zimmerman criticized the media, prosecutors and attorneys who he says have distorted information and spread lies about a man who mentored black kids and was deeply committed to his community. The Virginia native said hes sure of one thing: his sons innocence.
He believes medical records and photos will prove his son was injured by Trayvon when the two met in a gated communitys dark pathway. He said voice tests will show George Zimmerman didnt lie and an eyewitness will back up his account. The girl who claims to have been on the phone talking to the teenager when the incident occurred will be proved a liar, Zimmerman insists.
It all cant come soon enough for Zimmerman, who feels he must leave the state of Florida for good.
It was Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman encountered Trayvon as he walked through the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford. He told his father that he found Trayvon suspicious, because he fit the description of burglars who had recently broken into townhouses: young and black.
Zimmerman stressed that the accepted narrative that his son followed the teen after being told not to by a police operator is false. Instead, he said, George Zimmerman was on the street trying to find an address to pinpoint his location when, on the way back to his car, he encountered Trayvon for a second time.
Trayvon was almost home but turned back, Zimmerman said.
Trayvon said to him, Do you have a f---g problem? George told him, No, I dont have a problem. He says, You do now, and thats when he hit him, broke his nose, and hit him to the sidewalk.
During the struggle, George Zimmerman reached for his licensed handgun and shot Trayvon in the chest. His dad believes that as the two wrestled on the grass, it was Trayvons life or Georges.
Trayvon said something to that effect, that George would be dead, he said.
George Zimmermans account of what happened sounded true enough to Sanford Police, who publicly said that physical evidence and witness testimony corroborated his story.