Family members of a man who was brutally beaten over the weekend in downtown Miami are seeking answers to what seems to be an inexplicable act of violence.
Rene Betancourt, 22, was found inside a parked car at Jackson Memorial Hospital Saturday morning, where he had apparently driven himself for help after the savage beating. At the hospital Saturday, Betancourt initially told detectives that four to five men attacked him.
Doctors at Ryder Trauma Center said Betancourt suffered a skull fracture and severe damage to his face and body, suggesting that he had been beaten by several people.
His nose is broken, several teeth are knocked out, one eye is damaged and the side and front of his head was bashed in by what doctors say was a blunt object.
Now, his family is asking for the public’s help in piecing together what happened to Betancourt. Police are searching for suspects around the area where Betancourt originally parked his car Friday night in downtown Miami.
“They wanted to hit him until his head exploded,” said Daniela Betancourt, 33, who along with other family members was keeping vigil at the hospital. “It’s the most evil thing you could imagine.” She believes a group of people attacked her brother.
“Basically these people beat him to leave him dead,” said his mother, Rosie Betancourt. “I’m praying that they catch them.”
Neurosurgeons have placed a titanium plate on Rene Betancourt’s skull and they have been able to stop the internal bleeding. However, the injuries are delicate and doctors have told the family the situation is “touch and go.” Doctors said he will lose his sense of smell in one nostril and that they can’t guarantee a full recovery.
An avid skateboarder, Rene Betancourt told his younger sister he was headed out to find a spot where skaters practiced in downtown Miami. Betancourt, a graduate of Westwood Christian School in Miami-Dade, spent four years after high school in China, where his entrepreneur father does business. After six months in Spain and Morocco, he returned to his family’s home in Kendall four months ago and was readjusting to life in South Florida.
CALLS FOR HELP
A younger sister said he left home at 10 p.m. Relatives know Betancourt parked in a city lot near a Pollo Tropical in the 300 block of First Street around 11 p.m. He put enough money in the meter to stay until the next morning. The parking stub was found in his bloodied car Saturday.
Sometime between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. Friday, Betancourt was assaulted, his family believes. What could have prompted the attack is a mystery.
At around 2 a.m., Betancourt made several cellphone calls. In one, he left a voicemail for his high school friend Sebastian Guerra, managing to say: “I need you to help me out.” When he couldn’t reach Guerra, he called his sister Andrea Betancourt, 17, leaving her an unclear message. Both said they missed the initial calls, but saw the messages the next morning.
At around 9 a.m. Guerra came by the Betancourt’s home and the family went to police to report Betancourt missing. Adding to the confusion, when officers called Betancourt, he answered, but didn’t ask for help. He said he was fine and that he was parked outside his aunt’s house, Daniela Betancourt said. “He was out of it,” the sister said. “We knew something wasn’t right.”
His desperate parents then called their son again; he told his mother he needed to be picked up at Jackson Memorial. His parents found him around 11 a.m. in front of the emergency room of Jackson Memorial inside his sister’s car, an off-white 2012 Fiat 500.
His family suspects he spent hours inside the car, unable to reach help. Once discovered, he was admitted immediately and doctors operated on a blood clot in his head that could have been fatal.
On Sunday, Daniela Betancourt said her brother was able to speak and move his arms. Still, it is not clear whether he will be able to give more details about the attack to police.
Betancourt’s parents — in the hopes that it might jar the memory of anyone who may have seen Betancourt before or during the attack — have released photos of their son showing him prior to the assault and in his hospital bed. “We’re just waiting for answers right now,” his mother said.