Miami-Dade County

She downed 10 gin and tonics, then crushed the hearts of this family

Scott and Finn McGuire, center, and Suzy Rivera took what would be their last family vacation in the summer of 2015 in Florida. Courtesy of Suzy Rivera
Scott and Finn McGuire, center, and Suzy Rivera took what would be their last family vacation in the summer of 2015 in Florida. Courtesy of Suzy Rivera

A 23-year-old college student is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Miami for causing the death of Gulfport, Mississippi, native and Homeland Security Investigations agent Scott McGuire, father to Finn, soul mate to wife Suzy Rivera, pride of his parents and touchstone to two sisters, including a twin who lost her other half.

McGuire’s family does not believe the student, Jordana Rosales, fathoms the loss she visited on McGuire and his family after she downed more than 10 gin-and-tonic drinks, police reports indicate. She then got behind the wheel of her uncle’s Mercedes-Benz in South Beach.

Rosales, with three friends in the car, realized she was going the wrong way and whipped into a wide U-turn, Rivera learned from the investigation. Faced with oncoming traffic, Rivera said, Rosales swerved onto the sidewalk.

Two men flagging down a taxi on Collins Avenue near Espanola Way were struck by a newer model Mercedes that careened between the cab on the roadway and the sidewalk, then sped away.

She hit McGuire and his boss, who were about to climb into a taxi as they left a meeting in the predawn hours of Jan. 15, 2016.

Rosales drove away, and even tried to hide the Mercedes, but investigators caught up with her. She eventually pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident causing death and reckless driving.She faces 4 to 50 years in prison.

McGuire’s entire family plans to be at the sentencing and expects Homeland Security agents to join them in the small courtroom. They say Rosales never made eye contact with them as she apologized through tears during her plea hearing in October.

Putting others first

On the morning her husband was hit, Rivera’s phone rang at 3:20 a.m. in their New Orleans home. Her heart dropped to her stomach when the voice on the other end of the line tentatively asked, “Mrs. McGuire?” Friends and family knew her by her maiden name, which she kept after marriage.

Her husband had been the victim of a hit-and-run, the Homeland Security agent on the phone said. He was unresponsive. Rivera did not know what that meant.

She booked the first flight to Miami, her sister and 5-year-old Finn in tow. Her husband was in a coma, she learned at the hospital.

McGuire and Rivera met in college, when she was 18 and he was 21. They were inseparable from the time they started dating. Rivera would learn what McGuire’s parents and sisters had always known: McGuire thought first of others.

His father, attorney Jim McGuire of Waveland, remembers taking Scott to the dime store when he was a boy. He told his son he could get a candy bar and eat it on the way home. His sisters would not know.

Scott never said a word, he just held up three fingers. So his dad also bought candy bars for older sister Christy and Scott’s twin, Kelley.

At St. John’s Catholic High School, his dad said, one of Scott’s smaller classmates was being bullied. Scott, a big guy and admired basketball player, walked up, put his hand on the bully’s chest and said, “Don’t do it again.”

Jim McGuire said he has a visible, daily reminder of his son. Scott McGuire painted the interior of his father’s home. When either of his parents were sick, and after his father-in-law suffered strokes, McGuire drove over from New Orleans to care for them.“I used to tell everybody that the best person I knew in this whole world was my son,” Jim McGuire said. “And that I wished I could be a lot more like him.”

Dayonne McGuire, Scott’s mother, could brag about her son’s accomplishments at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he was named the most outstanding graduate pursuing a career in law enforcement. Or she could talk about how her son’s career advanced to dangerous undercover work all over the world.

Instead, she says, her son shone brightest as a father.

“He was such a role model for his son,” she said. “He taught him something every day. He fed him and read him books. He wanted to be a really good caregiver.”

Her ‘soul mate’

Scott McGuire took paternity leave when Finn was born. Being with Finn was a delight for his father, never a burden.

“He truly, truly took every opportunity that he could to be around his son and teach him new things every day,” Rivera said. Father and son went on many “adventures” together, packing their backpacks with snacks and drinks to explore New Orleans.

The clerks at the shops on Magazine Street in New Orleans knew them by name. Scott McGuire often took Finn with him to the Whole Foods Market, where the father bought organic produce when Finn was a baby to make him fresh, healthy meals.

The last time Rivera went out with her husband was on New Year’s Eve 2015. They stopped off at several parties and arrived home in the wee hours. She marveled that they could still have so much fun together after almost 20 years. Both grew in their marriage, but they never grew apart.

“He was my soul mate,” the graphic designer said. “He was my everything. If I was worried about something, all it took was for him to say, ‘It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be OK. Just stop worrying about it,’ and I would stop worrying about it.”

Scott McGuire never woke from his coma. With death imminent, Rivera sat her son down in a hospital conference room. “I told him, ‘Daddy’s going to heaven.’ He started crying. I told him not to worry, Daddy is still with us. ‘Daddy is your angel now.’ ”

Every night for the longest, she consoled Finn with stories about his father.

Working on forgiveness

Scott McGuire’s memorial service was held in New Orleans on Feb. 1, 2016, the day before he and Rivera would have celebrated 20 years together, and two months before Finn’s 6th birthday.

When McGuire was at home, he was home. His family knew very little about his work, and how dangerous it was, until after his death. He worked undercover, on arms deals, on drug deals, on matters of international import.

Rivera saw and heard her husband pick up one of his undercover phones only once. Finn was there, too. McGuire’s voice and language seemed to belong to a stranger as he headed for the door to continue his conversation outside. Mother and son looked at one another, wide-eyed.

She misses those times when her husband and son would sneak into the bathroom, throw ice water on her while she was rinsing shampoo from her hair, then double over with laughter.

She is trying to forgive the woman responsible for her husband’s death. The investigation and court appearances have added to her pain.

“It’s pretty awful,” she said. “It’s almost like it’s this invisible string that has a hold on you. Instead of trying to grieve, take care of your child and just move forward, it’s this thing that just keeps looming over you. … I don’t want to keep thinking about Miami and that morning.”

McGuire’s family believes Jordana Rosales should serve serious prison time, not just a few years.

“I think I feel at this point that we’ve done everything we are supposed to do or can do,” Rivera said. “I just hope for fairness.”

A procession for Scott McGuire, an agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, leaves the medical examiner's officer Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Miami. McGuire died Monday from injuries sustained when a car plowed into him earlier this month

Rosales was 21 when her car plowed into McGuire and his boss. Rivera does not believe Rosales is mature enough to understand the magnitude of the loss she caused.

“I don’t wish anything ill for her, but there have to be consequences for your actions. I’m trying to teach my son that,” Rivera said.

“I’m working my way toward forgiveness. It’s tough. I struggle.”

Her husband was 41 when he died.

“I loved him with my everything and I miss him so much,” Rivera said. “I know he’s around us all the time and I just wish I could give him back to my son and myself. I really do.

“Never in a million years did I think I was not going to grow old with him.

“I never thought that Scott wouldn’t get to see Finn grow up. That’s what breaks my heart.”

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