MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the past year Roxanne Dube has been one of the most vilified women in all of South Florida.
"Yes, I have made mistakes, serious mistakes, but I was not a bad mother," the former Canadian Consul to Florida told CBS4 News in her first extended local interview. "I loved my children and I cared for my children."
On March 30, 2015, her 18-year-old son Jean Wabafiyebazu died in a bloody shootout with a drug dealer he was attempting to rob. Her second son, Marc, who was just 15 at the time, was charged with murder because he was outside in the car while the robbery and shooting happened. (Under Florida's felony murder law, anyone involved in the commission of a felony in which someone is killed can be charged with murder whether they actually killed the person or not.)
During a court appearance shortly after the shooting, Dube broke down as she pleaded with the judge to grant Marc bail.
"He's a good boy," she declared. "He never had any issue whatsoever with behavior in school. He loved his older brother. He just was highly influenced by his older brother."
During these court appearances she often sat alone, seemingly shell-shocked.
"My life, I don't have many things I don't have many belongings, but my life is a life of integrity," she told Judge Teresa Pooler.
Nevertheless, Pooler was openly scornful of Dube, refusing to grant bail to her son. "I am loathe to leave Mr. Wabafiyebazu in the custody of his mother," the judge said at the time.
Dube said the judge was mistaken in her assessment of Dube's fitness as a mother.
"What I've come to realize, Jim is when you have a child in crime, the vast majority of people, most people whether they are a parents or not, would look at that situation and want to put as much distance between that reality and theirs," she said. "And they'll say, `Well she must have done this and this,' being negligent, not loving them enough, putting her career ahead of her motherhood, putting the answers that they can't figure out by themselves because they don't know that family, the judge did not know me."
Dube is still struggling to make sense of what happened inside that Miami apartment. According to police, Jean and Marc drove there in their mother's car with diplomatic plates. And it was Jean who had the plan.
Claiming to want to buy some pot, Jean talked his way into the apartment and then tried to rob small-time pot dealer Joshua Wright out of two pounds of marijuana. Street value less than $5000.
But the robbery turned violent as Jean and Wright killed each other.
When Marc heard the shots he ran into the apartment.
"He saw Jean losing consciousness and that is an image that is very difficult for him to erase," Dube said.
Marc waited for the police to arrive and was taken into custody. In the meantime, Roxanne had no idea what was happening. She thought her sons had gone to a movie. She went to bed that night not realizing anything was wrong. In the morning her consulate driver had her call the Canadian embassy in Washington immediately where she was told her boys were in trouble.
"I said what else can you tell me? There's been a shooting. Where are they? The only information they had was Jackson Hospital," Dube said. "When I got there I made a fool of myself at the emergency room. I was crying I don't know that I was coherent."
She remembers being handed a phone number.
"And I called and it was Detective Garcia, who was the lead detective," she said. "I said what's happening with my children? Well I'm afraid I have bad news. I want to hear it. Jean is dead. The phone got on the floor and from then on I was in a state of shock."
Dube admits Jean had a troubled past and was arrested a year before in Ottawa for drug possession.
"And it's true that he was associating with people who were interested in drug trafficking," she said. "And there was certainly a certain allure for Jean in terms of the business aspect of drug trafficking - easy money."
She thought he had turned things around - and Miami would be a fresh start.
"I regret that I didn't see as clearly as I see now how troubled as he was," she said..
With Jean dead her attention turned to Marc.
"I only saw him in court, we hugged publicly, we weren't allowed a private moment and he whispered in my ear, again and again, Jean is dead, Jean is morte, Jean is dead, Jean is dead," she recalled. "He said to me, and it was real, I don't know if I can live. I don't know if I can live without Jean. Jean is my world. I'm going to need help and I'm going to need help for a long time.
"When I saw Marc in court it changed everything because it gave me a purpose," she said. "I knew I wanted to live but I remember telling myself many, many times, I don't know how."
For Dube this was an experience far different from her life as a diplomat. Before Miami she was Canada's ambassador to Zimbabwe dealing with mercurial leader Robert Mugabe.
Going through the pictures of her time in Africa bring back an assortment of memories of her two sons and you quickly realize how close the two boys were, with Jean always leading the way.
"Yes, yes and the one in charge, the one with the plan the one that was driving," Dube said. "And Marc just wanted to be with him."
Dube said these were not just two brothers who liked each other, this was a very close relationship.
"On Jean's tombstone Marc ensured that we would write, `Forever My Brother's Keeper,' because that's what Jean used to tell Marc all the time," she said.
Dube says despite it all she is not angry at Jean and her heart goes out to the family of Joshua Wright
"There's not a day that doesn't go without me thinking about Joshua Wright," she said. "To me what is most important about what happened - there were two wonderful, talented, full-of-dreams teenagers who stupidly were killed and killed one another for two pounds of marijuana. How unnecessary. And I feel sorry for that."
For Dube, understanding the American court system was a lesson in itself.
"It is a very adversarial system. I wasn't prepared for that," Dube said. "I like most mothers, I'm sure, thought, I'm going to tell them who Marc is, I'm going to provide all of his school records, they can talk to whoever they want and everything is going to be fine. I was so naive. And then you find yourself in a situation where you better watch what you say because it's part of a different track system that you are not in control of."
Helping her in court were defense attorneys Curt Obront and Michael Corey.
Dube credits both men with getting her through this trying time.
"It was as serious as you get and it was quite a challenge," Obront said.
Initial reports had Marc as the getaway driver, but a surveillance video from a nearby building proved that wasn't true because it showed Marc was in the passenger seat.
Nor was Marc the look out since police found Jean's phone in the car so there would have been no way for Marc to talk to him.
In February Obront and Corey negotiated a deal with prosecutors that kept Marc out of prison. Marc will spend 18 months in the county's boot camp, followed by two years of house arrest and eight years of probation.
State attorney spokesman Ed Griffith said if Marc doesn't complete the program, he could face upwards of 60 years in prison.
"This gives him a chance to straighten out his life," Griffith said. "If he takes that chance he will go forward if he fails he will be harshly punished."
Dube says she has learned important lessons through this experience. She wishes she had reached out for professional assistance when Jean was arrested last year in Canada
"I needed help and I didn't realize it," she said.
She also discovered she's not alone in feeling isolated and guilty as the mother of a child who ran afoul of the law.
"Since this has happened I've had quite a number of anonymous mothers, people I don't know, never heard of in my life in Canada coming to me and saying, Wow, me too, me too, me too," she said. "Me too I'm having a child in trouble. Me too I've had these difficulties. Me too I feel so alone. I haven't had the support that I need. There is a link between us. We're going through the same thing. And I sense when they write to me they feel judged too and that's a motivation for me now."
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