STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Her son was fatally injured in a hit-and-run while trying to make a drug deal.
“We were denied our future with Bobby, and, more importantly, Bobby was denied his chance at a beautiful life,” Michele Kunz wept as she read a prepared statement in court at the sentencing of Robert Messina, the driver on whose car her son had jumped during a dispute over money and drugs on July 20, 2015.
Kunz will be Rep. Max Rose’s guest at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening.
“When I first met Michele, I was struck by the incredible strength and courage she and her family showed by turning the tragic loss of their son into a campaign to raise awareness about the drug epidemic in our community,” Rose said.
“Because of Michele’s efforts, and those of so many others who’ve had to bury a son or daughter, we have made tremendous strides as a nation when it comes to de-stigmatizing the disease that is drug addiction. I invited Michele as my guest to this year’s State of the Union to highlight the progress we’ve made, as well as the incredible amount of work that lies ahead,” Rose stated.
Reflecting on the loss of her son, Kunz said, “Drug addiction has no bias, has no social status, political agenda or religious preference; addiction affects you and me, our children and our grandchildren.
“It is a disease that has not yet been contained and there is no one solution that works for all. As in other diseases, a protocol is put in place to change the course of the illness and ultimately cure the disease, along with the pain and suffering. Although addiction is now classified as a disease, many still believe it is a choice.”
Mrs. Kunz continued, “My son, Bobby, suffered with the disease of addiction and fought every day to protect us from his pain, and although he had been in recovery at the time of his death, it was his addiction that he could not escape, and ultimately his illness once again gained control. Bobby lost his life over $90.00, the cost of three oxycodone pills and to make matters worse he was killed by someone he called his friend. Still, that never defined who Bobby was, he was a true gentleman, a loving son, brother and friend and he was a beautiful person both inside and out.
“He is a bright light that cannot be extinguished, and if I am to honor my son in any way, I choose to do so by bringing his message of Hope, and by working with our representatives to bring forth positive change for our children and the families of those suffering from the disease of addiction.”
THE DRIVER CONVICTED
Prosecutors said Messina had “recklessly” driven off at more than 30 mph with Kunz clinging to the hood and windshield, swerved and hit a curb dislodging Kunz from the vehicle and causing his fatal injuries. Messina then left the scene.
Messina, 23, a Charleston resident, pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court, St. George, to second-degree manslaughter for recklessly causing the death of Kunz, 24, a Rossville resident. It was the top charge against him.
Messina expressed remorse before Justice William E. Garnett imposed sentenced.
“I am truly and deeply sorry,” he said. “There is nothing I can say or do to rectify this. I hope other kids like me and Bobby that struggle with addiction don’t make the same mistakes … No intent was behind this. I am sorry.”
The fatal sequence unfolded at the South Shore Commons shopping complex on Veterans Road West in Charleston, according to police and court documents.
Anthony Zito, of Rossville, a passenger in Messina’s 2014 Audi sedan, had allegedly accepted $90 for the prescription painkiller oxycodone from Kunz, but then didn’t deliver the drug, police and court documents said.
That’s what triggered the fatal incident.
The driver was sentenced to one to three years.
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