Assemblyman Nelson Albano
Assemblyman Nelson Albano

(Second in a series)

Click for Part One: Family turns tragedy into 10 years of service with HERO Campaign

Click for Part Three: Fight for ignition interlock law gave Ricci Branca Jr.'s parents a reason to live

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The hate is still there, and it may never leave.

Like the huge charcoal-black tattoo of his son's face that stretches around Nelson Albano's deltoid, it can be covered with a sleeve but never rubbed away.

Albano, now a state assemblyman, will never forgive the repeated drunken driver who ran a red light at West and Park avenues in Vineland. Albano's son, Michael, 19, died on Dec. 20, 2001, but his family still lives with what it lost.

"I see him with a couple of kids, married. You try to envision what his kids would look like, what his wife would look like. It crosses your mind," said Albano, of Vineland.

Carlos Rosado, who killed Michael, is serving a 12-year prison term for vehicular homicide near school property. Rosado, whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, had four previous convictions for driving while intoxicated. He is eligible for parole in less than two years - on March 2, 2012.

Albano said he will speak against parole. But parole or no, Rosado will leave prison one day and society's punishment will be over.

"It's not about, I won't say revenge. You want them to feel the same kind of pain you do. You try to do things to penalize or punish them," Albano said.

"Today I still feel the same hate and same anger toward that man," he said. "I can never forgive him."

Nelson and Debbie Albano divorced several years ago. Michael has a brother Ryan, now 30, who is a pharmacist in Austin, Texas. Ryan said the early months after Michael's death were hellish.

"My mother had trouble having the desire to eat. You have difficultly sleeping - all three of us," he said. "You'd lie down and you wouldn't have a sound night's sleep because you'd hear our father or mother wake up in hysterical cries."

The Albanos pushed for "Michael's Law," which requires prison sentences for third-time drunken driving offenders.

"I promised before I buried him nobody would ever forget who Michael Albano is, and his death would not be in vain," Nelson Albano said. "I found that was my outlet to rid myself of at least some of the pain... that was my outlet, my release, my reason to continue."

Dec. 20, 2001, 11:45 a.m.

Michael Albano graduated from Vineland High School in June 2001 and was preparing to pursue a career as a police officer.

Michael was driving a truck when Rosado smashed into him. His father, a shop steward at the ShopRite on Landis Avenue in Vineland, got the phone call from his son's boss, but heard only snippets through the hysteria - EMTs ... paramedics... helicopter.

In the hospital, he saw Michael - a sheet was over his body, another sheet was around the back of his head.

He fell on his son's chest and screamed.

Michael's Law

His parents still maintain the gravesite at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Vineland: edging, weeding, putting down new mulch.

"Even to this day, when both of my parents go to the gravesite and take care of it, they feel like they're doing something for their son," Ryan said. "They wanted to take care of the gravesite in the same manner as they tried to take care of both children."

Several years after he got Michael's image tattooed on his left arm, Nelson Albano had Ryan's tattooed on his right.

Ryan, meanwhile, has his own tattoo for his brother - an angel on its knees with a heart in its hands. Underneath is the signature "Mike." A tattoo artist traced the signature from a birthday card Michael had given his mother.

In 2003, Nelson Albano sat in the balcony of the state Assembly as the bill named for his son passed the Assembly. The quest for "Michael's Law" had begun two months after Michael died. Two years later, Albano's pursuit of Michael's Law helped propel Albano, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, into a seat in the state Assembly.

Albano compared the passage of Michael's Law with the moment he stood before Rosado on sentencing day - Aug. 9, 2002 - when he turned to a shackled Rosado and said, "Is this justice for taking our son's life? Today I should be your judge and jury, I would sentence you to death."

There was no comparison, he said. The day Michael's Law was approved was better.

"The emotions I felt that day," he said, "overwhelmed the hate and the anger."

Coming up in the Living Living Legacies series

Tuesday: Ricci Branca Jr.'s bedroom still looks as it did the day he died: July 14, 2006. Ricci's family spent the past three years pushing for "Ricci's Law," which requires ignition locks on cars for previous drunken drivers whose blood alcohol content was 0.15 and above - about twice the legal limit.


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