MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A 22-year-old college student and skateboarder who was nearly beaten to death is making a remarkable recovery at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
CBS4 was invited in to his new room in the west wing of Jackson Memorial Hospital. That’s where CBS4’s Peter D’Oench and his photographer saw Betancourt for the first time.
D’Oench reported that seeing Betancourt made you understand how he has suffered since the attack. He is able to say a few words to loved ones who are by his side, but his eyes remain shut and Betancourt is not able to move very much. He spends his time resting.
Betancourt has a series of stitches around his fractured skull.
But it is an improvement since his days in the intensive care unit. Doctors say he could be at JMH for at least a week and his family says he may have to be moved to a rehabilitation center. But fortunately, his family is at his side.
“This is a tragedy,” said his older sister Daniela Herdocia. “He will never get over this. We have no answers for why this happened. He is the nicest person I’ve ever met. He will make it through, but it is painful to see his suffering. This was a deliberate attempt to harm him.”
“I am frustrated that police have not been able to find some suspects but I know they are trying to do the right thing,” Herdocia said. “I feel so bad. He is not just my brother. He is like a son to me.”
Betancourt has no health insurance. His family says he was about to get a policy.
To help him, the Jackson Memorial Foundation has started a fund for him.
Miami Police are still looking for the attackers after Betancourt was found brutally beaten and left for dead in Miami. Betancourt has improved to good condition. Detectives were told it could be at least four days before they can question him about the incident.
“He received several blows in the head from what we believe was a very strong, heavy object,” Herdocia said on Monday. “He has so many cracks in his skull that the surgeon didn’t even count. This was fixed by titanium.”
“I don’t know what to say,” said Betancourt’s 17-year-old sister Andrea. “Those of you who know my brother know that he has a bigger heart than everyone. He wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Betancourt’s father Rene told D’Oench, “They tried to kill him for sure. Doctors told us they hit him with a very big object on his skull.”
Everything started when Rene Betancourt, 22, was found by his father Saturday night beaten and bleeding in his car parked close to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The father said he went looking for his son after he didn’t come home. The father said he believes Rene tried to drive himself to the hospital after he was attacked.
CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald constructed an approximate time line of what may have happened to Betancourt.
According to the Herald, Betancourt parked in a city lot near a Pollo Tropical on the 300 block of 1st St around 11 p.m. He put enough money into the meter to stay until the next morning, the Herald said.
The beating happened sometime between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., according to the family.
According to police, Betancourt called his sister at 1 a.m. asking for help and then called a friend around 3 a.m.
CBS4 obtained the call that Betancourt placed to his friend. In that call, he is heard to say to his friend Sebastian Guerra, “You Sebs. I need you man. I need you to help me out, alright. Bye. Please call me back.”
He wasn’t found until 11:30 a.m.
“Somehow God brought him to Jackson Memorial Hospital,” said Herdocia. “But it was hours before my parents were able to find him.”
“I’m glad he’s here,” said Andrea Betancourt. “He was minutes away from death.”
Leo Harris, a Physician’s Assistant at Jackson Memorial Hospital, told reporters at a news conference Monday outside the Ryder Trauma Center that Betancourt could have died. But he is now cautiously optimistic that Betancourt will not have any loss of vision of permanent brain damage.
“He has fractures in the frontal bone and a tear in an artery and had a blood clot,” said Harris. “And there has been some bruising on the brain.”
He said Betancourt was hit by a “very strong” object and said “this could have been fatal.” He said Betancourt should be at JMH for anywhere from a week to two weeks.
Miami Police said Rene Betancourt wasn’t able to remember where the attack happened, but police did say it was a robbery. Police now say Betancourt was attacked by three people.
Herdocia told D’Oench that the attackers took his wallet with a debit card, his drivers license and $20 in cash.
Officers visited businesses Monday to see if anyone has anything on tape. But they were not able to find any surveillance tape. They say the attack happened at Northeast 3rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
According to the police report, Rene suffered a fractured skull, fractured left orbital bone, a laceration to the heat, and had blood clots in his head.
Police said Betancourt was rushed into surgery to deal with the blood clots.
“My parents and I, we’re so grateful, you know, my brother was reborn. He’s alive, that’s all we can ask for,” Herdocia said. “But what’s haunting us is the barbaric type of attack he was a victim of.”
Herdocia continued with a direct appeal to the public.
“The only hope we have is finding these people. Making sure it doesn’t happen to your son, to your daughter, to your sister, to someone who may just be walking down downtown. It’s that you help us find a surveillance video that shows something about what happened. You know, we can start putting the puzzle together.”
“Somebody has to have seen it,” said the victim’s father Rene Betancourt. “There are so many cameras in the downtown area. There are so many people in the downtown area. Somebody must have seen it.”
A fund to help pay for Betancourt’s recovery has been set up by the Jackson Memorial Foundation. Click Here for more information. To make a contribution, click the “Take Action Now” tab, and then click on donations. Once you are on the donation page, select “other” in the contribution details section and input: Rene J. Betancourt Jr. You may also write a check to Jackson Memorial Foundation and include Betancourt’s name in the memo portion. Checks can be mailed to Jackson Memorial Foundation, Park Plaza East, Suite G, 901 N.W. 17th Street, Miami, FL 33136.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)