Omar Rodriguez, the Kendall man who menaced neighbors for years, claimed a man charged him with a knife, forcing him to fire a volley of fatal shots after an argument over a dog.
But a newly released police lab report shows no DNA from the slain man has been identified on the knife found at the crime scene — while genetic material from Rodriguez himself was discovered.
The wife of victim Jose “Pepe” Rey told Miami-Dade detectives that the knife did not belong to her husband, who had his hands up, holding only a drink as he was shot. And while fighting for his life at a Kendall hospital, Rey awoke and suggested that Rodriguez planted the knife after opening fire.
“He threw a knife on the side. . ... I don’t understand. The guy’s crazy,” Rey said, his wife told Miami-Dade detectives. “I don’t understand why he would shoot me.”
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The newly released evidence, obtained by the Miami Herald, supports prosecutors’ theory that Rodriguez shot Rey in cold blood, immediately throwing down the blade so he could claim self defense. The victim’s wife, Lissette Rey, and another neighbor also told police that Rey had his hands in the air when shot, with only a mint julep drink in his right hand.
Rodriguez, 66, remains jailed while he awaits trial for first-degree murder in the slaying of Rey, an Army veteran and father of two who fought for his life for nine days before succumbing to his injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center.
“I cannot comment except to say that when all of the facts are made known, this was an act of self defense and was a justified use of force,” Rodriguez’s attorney, Alan Ross, said Wednesday.
Residents of two Kendall neighborhoods have long complained about Rodriguez, blaming him for stalking behavior, verbal threats and frivolous lawsuits. Though he has been arrested several times, Rodriguez has escaped any serious jail time over the years. Since 2008, his neighbors have filed more than 140 complaints with police about Rodriguez's behavior.
One Kendall neighbor accused Rodriguez of leaving dead kittens in her pool, while another claimed he falsely accused her of illegally neutering animals inside her home. Rodriguez, who finished law school but never became a lawyer, over the years has filed a slew of failed lawsuits against neighbors and even police officers, accusing them of various conspiracies.
Amid other evidence released Wednesday: Crime-scene photos, 911 calls and scores of jail calls to family in which Rodriguez repeatedly disparaged the dead man, planned a lawsuit against one TV station for a news report on the case and complained about jail staff.
In many of the calls, Rodriguez and his wife repeatedly insist that neighbors and corrupt cops are conspiring to drive them from their homes. “Don’t sell your house at bargain basement price because of those cockroaches,” Rodriguez told his wife in one phone call.
The shooting happened on the night of June 20, outside Rodriguez's son’s home in the Village of Kendale, not far from his father’s house. Neighbors said Rodriguez was known to drive back and forth looking for dogs who might urinate or defecate on his son’s property.
That day, Rey and his wife had ordered pizza, gone to Home Depot and shopped to prepare for a Father’s Day barbecue. At night, the two went out to walk their four-pound Yorkie named Misha near Rodriguez's son’s home in the 10300 block of Southwest 97th Street.
They stopped to chat with a neighbor, Hector Serpa, at the man's fence. Neither Rey nor his wife, a marketing employee at the Miami Herald, even knew Rodriguez. Serpa knew him well — he told police that Rodriguez had been tormenting him for awhile.
Rodriguez, who was patrolling the block in his truck, parked on a swale, turned on his high-beam truck lights and began revving the engine menacingly. Video surveillance from a neighbor, also released Wednesday, captured the act.
Serpa explained the problems with Rodriguez. Rey and his wife agreed to stay for drinks, but Rey returned home to put away the dog and prepare a mint julep for his wife.
The shooting took place as Rey was walking back. Rodriguez told police he saw a “shiny thing” in Rey’s hand, forcing him to shoot a volley of rounds, then stand over him firing more.
But in two interviews with Miami-Dade police, Rey’s wife disputed the claim. She said Rey was walking backward and had only the drink in his right hand — “his arms raised up in the air like Jesus, like on the cross.”
In a July 1 interview, according to a newly released transcript, Lissette Rey said her husband did not own the knife found on the scene — and had never wielded one that night.
Several days after the shooting, Rey awoke briefly and told his wife about the planted knife.
Rodriguez, for his part, explicitly told police he picked up the knife with his hand and threw it. A Miami-Dade police lab report shows that Rodriguez’s DNA matched the “major” profile found on the blade, and could not conclude whether Rey’s was found on the blade.
Neither man’s DNA appeared on the handle.