“He seemed to believe his wife was poisoning him,” said Michael O’Brien, 46, who regularly walked his dog with Rodriguez in Horton Park. “He kept repeating himself. He wasn’t eating at home. He just wasn’t the same guy we all knew.”
Everyone who knew Rodriguez knew him as “Pappy,” the neighborhood watchdog who patrolled his street on foot and picked up the newspapers left in snowbirds’ driveways in the summer months when their homes were vacant.
“He was the guy you trusted with everything. He would always walk up and down the street checking on peoples’ homes,” said Jeff Canevari, a friend and neighbor of Rodriguez for two and a half years.
Rodriguez spent his days as an auxiliary officer for the Cape Coral Police Department’s volunteer Marine Unit. A private boat docked behind his home at 2317 S.E. 27th St. in the quiet neighborhood of Gulf Coast Estates still bore a placard declaring his former status with the CCPD.
Rodriguez had an extensive gun collection and was usually armed, according to neighbors and friends.
“He always had a gun with him,” said O’Brien. “For as long as I knew him, he always carried a gun.”
During a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon, hours before he was arrested and charged with second-degree homicide, Rodriguez said he’d spoken with detectives and they had agreed to let him put his 75-year-old wife, Wanda Rodriguez, to rest before he was taken into custody. Her funeral was scheduled Friday morning, he said.
Joseph Rodriguez said he was “confused” and declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death.
He told police that he’d called 911 after finding his wife’s body on the morning of June 27, according to an incident report. Wanda Rodriguez was lying on her bedroom floor. She had been shot in the head, a gun was lying near her body and there was a large amount of blood, authorities said.
Joseph Rodriguez reportedly said he last checked on his wife at about 2 a.m. and she was sleeping. Detectives believed the death was “suspicious in nature” and notified the forensics unit, according to the report.
Authorities determined Joseph Rodriguez was responsible for his wife’s death six days after the incident. Cape investigators made the arrest after reviewing forensic evidence with the Lee County Medical Examiner’s Office and State Attorney’s Office, said police spokeswoman Dyan Lee.
Joseph Rodriguez began acting strangely shortly after the death of his dog, “Max,” who succumbed to throat cancer about a month ago, said O’Brien.
“He was a really decent old man, just recently he’s gone downhill mentally,” he said, “but losing that dog was a big hurt on him.”
Max’s death also took its toll on Wanda Rodriguez, who walked the dog every evening with her husband, said Canevari.
“She used to always be out walking the dog,” he said, “but when the dog died we didn’t see her as much. They were both nuts about that dog.”
Canevari said his wife and two children wept as they watched police lead Joseph Rodriguez away from his home in handcuffs.
“We all loved him,” he said. “It’s disgusting. Who knows what goes on inside somebody’s head?”
A judge denied Joseph Rodriguez bond and he remains in the Lee County Jail.
Wanda Rodriguez’s death marks the sixth homicide in Cape Coral this year, tying the highest number in recorded city history. There have been three shooting deaths, two fatal beatings and one stabbing.