MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The incredible recovery continues for Rene Betancourt, a 22-year-old college student and skateboarder who was nearly beaten to death the night of July 6.
In fact, he is walking the halls of Jackson Memorial Hospital, and is listed in good condition. Physician’s Assistant Leo Harris is cautiously optimistic that Betancourt will not have any loss of vision of permanent brain damage.
That’s more than doctors could say on Thursday, when CBS4’s Peter D’Oench was invited to visit Betancourt in his room in the hospital’s west wing.
D’Oench reported that seeing Betancourt made you understand how he has suffered since the attack: he could say only a few words to loved ones, his eyes were shut and couldn’t move much.
He also had a series of stitches around his fractured skull.
“He received several blows in the head from what we believe was a very strong, heavy object,” older sister Daniela Herdocia said. “He has so many cracks in his skull that the surgeon didn’t even count. This was fixed by titanium.”
“This could have been fatal,” said Harris.
Doctors say Betancourt could be at JMH for at least a week and his family says he may need to be moved to a rehabilitation center. But fortunately, his family is at his side.
“Those of you who know my brother know that he has a bigger heart than everyone. He wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said Betancourt’s 17-year-old sister Andrea.
“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.
“This is a tragedy,” said Herdocia. “He will never get over this. We have no answers for why this happened.”
Miami Police are determined to find answers for why this happened, after Betancourt was found brutally beaten and left for dead in Miami.
Betancourt’s father Rene told D’Oench he is convinced the attackers did just that. “They tried to kill him for sure. Doctors told us they hit him with a very big object on his skull,” said Rene.
“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.
The Jackson Memorial Foundation has started a fund to help Betancourt. Information on how to donate is at the bottom of this story.
Everything started when Rene’s father said he went looking for his son after he didn’t come home. He said he believes Rene tried to drive himself to the hospital after he was attacked.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald constructed an approximate timeline of what may have happened to Betancourt:
11 p.m.: Betancourt parked in a city lot near a Pollo Tropical on the 300 block of 1st St. He put enough money into the meter to stay until the next morning.
Sometime between 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m.: Family says Betancourt suffers severe beating, which police say was doled out by three attackers. According to Herdocia, the attackers took his wallet, which contained a debit card, his drivers license and $20 cash.
1 a.m.: Police say Betancourt called his sister asking for help
3 a.m.: Betancourt called friend Sebastian Guerra.
11:30 a.m.: Betancourt is found, and police say he was rushed into surgery to deal with the blood clots.
CBS4 obtained that 3 a.m. call. In the call, he is heard to say to Guerra, “Yo Sebs. I need you man. I need you to help me out, alright. Bye. Please call me back.”
He wasn’t found until “Somehow God brought him to Jackson Memorial Hospital,” said Herdocia.
Miami Police said Rene Betancourt wasn’t able to remember where the attack happened. Police say Betancourt was attacked by three people.
Officers visited businesses on July 7th to see whether anyone had anything on tape, but were unable 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.
“What’s haunting us is the barbaric type of attack he was a victim of,” said Herdocia.
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.