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Driver In Fatal Rickenbacker Hit & Run To Escape Manslaughter Charge

MIAMI (CBS4) - Patty Cohen smiled through her tears Thursday, recalling her husband who was killed by a hit and run driver.

"If he could hear you today, what would you say?" CBS4's Gary Nelson asked.

"I would tell him I miss him, and I love him, and I wish he was here," she said, her voice choking behind a bitter-sweet smile comprised of fond memories.

Her husband, Aaron, 37, was fatally injured February 15th when he was struck on his bicycle by a hit and run driver on the Rickenbacker causeway.  The motorist, Michale Traverso, kept going, leaving Cohen on the pavement with a devastating head injury.  Traverso somehow managed to drive his heavily damaged car, its windshield rendered opaque by the collision, to his Key Biscayne condo where he covered it in a tarp.  At the time of the hit and run, Traverso was participating in a court-ordered drug treatment program.

Patty Cohen reflected on the loss of her husband Thursday.

"He's my other half.  I just feel like half of my heart has been ripped out and taken away forever."

Aaron Cohen leaves two children he doted over, eighteen month-old Aiden and three and a half year-old Lily, who still asks for him.

"How tragic it is that they not just won't have a father, but that they won't have Aaron as a father," Cohen said.  "He was such a good father.  He wasn't a regular guy, he was an exceptional guy."

Aaron Cohen was rich with friends, as was evidenced by the throng that turned out for a memorial bike ride for him, and who recently erected a billboard on I-95 in his memory and to promote safety for cyclists and joggers.

"He would have loved being on a billboard," Patty Cohen said, chuckling.  "But he would also have loved the message.  He was so concerned about safety and focused on safety."

Michael Traverso, CBS4 News has learned, will escape a DUI manslaughter charge despite an arguably strong circumstantial case against him.  Investigators have placed him at the Greenstreet Cafe and bar in Coconut Grove until the wee hours of the morning of the hit and run.

Sources tell CBS4 News receipts reveal alcohol was purchased.

On security video at his condo, Traverso appeared unsteady on his feet minutes after the accident.  A security guard told investigators that Traverso seemed inebriated and could barely walk.  But because Traverso waited more than 12 hours to surrender himself, police were unable to obtain blood alcohol evidence to support a DUI.

Traverso is facing a maximum 15 years in prison for leaving the scene of a fatal accident.  If he were charged with DUI manslaughter as well, he would be looking at double that:  30 years.

Patty Cohen declined to speak ill of Traverso Thursday but said she hopes his punishment will serve as a deterrent.

"It should never happen again to anyone else.  I wouldn't wish this on any family.  No one should die like this."

In reflecting on her husband and what she would tell him if she could, Cohen said, "I wish we had more time.  I would tell him he was a great father and a great husband.  I learned a lot from him, and I'm still learning from him."


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