62ºF

Diego Medina tells love story 1 year after wife's death

Woman killed by wanted criminal fleeing from police

SOUTHWEST RANCHES, Fla. – Diego Medina's life with his wife, Maritza, was a love story.

"We were crazy in love with each other, as silly as that sounds," he said. "The type of love that, that I couldn't breathe well around her."

The two met as children -- they were both children of Cuban exiles and grew up in neighboring households. Maritza, who had a tough childhood, lived with Diego's aunt in Miami at one point.

As teenagers, they would fall in love and form what Diego calls an unbreakable bond.

"All the fun we had, growing up together, especially those hard years of no money," Diego laughed.

Through years of hardships and saving money, Diego said Maritza always kept a positive attitude. The pair would eventually have two daughters and build a home together in Pembroke Pines.

On Sept. 18, 2013, everything changed.

Wanted criminal Antonio Feliu was fleeing from police through Miami-Dade County and north into Broward County. As he sped onto U.S. Highway 27, he slammed into Maritza's black Mercedes.

She died an innocent bystander. Diego said that was the day he died, too.

"She simply went to take her daughter to school and never came home," he said. "This is not something you just get over."

But in the last year, some good has come out of the tragedy. 

Diego and neighbors complained that Maritza never would have used U.S. 27, but gates blocking Pembroke Pines from Southwest Ranches forced her to. Days after the crash, the community held a rally at Southwest Ranches town hall.

Months later, a new road was built; Southwest 207th Terrace connects the two towns and was named Maritza Medina Way.

"I so wish the road could have been built earlier. And I so wish it was somebody else's name was on that road. But it isn't. And I'm honored," Diego said.

In March, Diego donated the couple's dog to the Miami-Dade Police Department. The German shepherd named Bear, who looked after Maritza, is now working with Lt. Jeff Schmidinger and protecting people all over South Florida.

"This was her dog, and like I told Diego, it's like having a guardian angel with me," Schmidinger said in March.

And then there's Diego's love story. It's now recorded in a book he wrote called "I Knew Cinderella."

In the book, Diego recalls the first time he and Maritza kissed.

"I felt my knees go weak. My hands were shaking. And I could hardly breathe. We held each other tightly and kissed with such passion that we could not breathe," the book reads.

Diego said he never had the chance to know his own grandmother well. He hopes the book will give his family and future grandchildren a glimpse at how special his bond with Maritza was.

He said he also wants people to know that true love really does exist.

"We spent 32 years together as best friends. And that's one of the things I miss the most. I've lost my best friend," he said.