Florida Keys

She was rescued from Irma, then killed in a hit-and-run —and now there is an arrest

Mondizoch
Mondizoch

The Florida Highway Patrol on Tuesday arrested a man after police said he struck a Keys woman Nov. 25 on her bicycle with his pickup after a night of drinking at a local bar and left the scene knowing the crash involved a grave injury.

oconnor, kevin
O’Connor

Rena Mondzioch, 43, was found dead near mile marker 26.5, having recently gotten off work at the nearby Boondocks Grille and Draft House when a truck swerved into the bicycle lane about 11:32 and drove into her path, police said.

The crash was recorded by a nearby business’ security camera. About one hour after the crash, a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy spotted the body on the side of the road.

Kevin Michael O’Connor, 36, listed as having a Summerland Key address in the police report but whose jail information said he is from Oxford, Fla., near the Ocala National Forest, was arrested for felony leaving the scene of a crash involving death.

O’Connor, in his sworn statement taken Dec. 1, said he remembered nothing after leaving My New Joint on Cudjoe Key, 22668 Overseas Highway, where he consumed alcohol, police said. His receipt from the night shows he ordered five Rasputin Nitro beers and one shot of Jack Daniels whiskey, they said.

He left the bar at 11:27 p.m., about five minutes before the crash, police said. He was alone in the truck.

“He stated under oath that he did not recall leaving the bar, only waking up at home the next day,” according to the probable cause affidavit. “He claimed that he observed the damage after he awoke.”

The truck hit the bicyclist with such force that it split the bike into two pieces, the FHP said. Mondzioch was driving southbound in the bike lane against traffic.

“The Silverado braked hard, indicating the driver realized he had struck something, but then the truck continued northbound without stopping.”

But a witness told FHP that O’Connor showed up at the Looe Key Tiki Bar, 27340 Overseas Highway on Ramrod Key, about one minute after the crash and said he was “****ed up,” and had been in a crash but didn’t hit anyone.

O’Connor entered the tiki bar parking speeding with the truck’s passenger side headlight almost entirely gone, along with a large piece of metal on the side of the truck, the FHP reported. The witness knocked on O’Connor’s window and asked what happened. After O’Connor allegedly made the statements, the witness told him to stay where he was but O’Connor took off speeding northbound on U.S. 1, according to the FHP.

An anonymous tip apparently helped crack the case. Someone told police where O’Connor’s 2010 Chevrolet Silverado was and parts left at the scene matched the damage to the pickup. “It also had sustained damage consistent with striking the victim,” police said.

O’Connor, who was arrested at the Summerland Key address listed on the police report, was being held Tuesday at the Stock Island Detention Center on $50,000 bond.

“There are no words to express how sorry I am, Rena,” her boyfriend Chris Guinto posted on Facebook days after her death. “I am haunted by a tormenting guilt that I will carry the rest of my life.”

The two met when Guinto helped rescue Mondizoch from her Big Coppitt Key home during Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

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