Commentary: This homeless, Vietnam veteran's life had meaning

Who can say what Daniel Case experienced and saw during the Vietnam War?

All that his mother, Rachel Case, knows is that the good-looking, athletic kid she raised in Dayton, Ohio, the second of her seven children, came home a changed man.

“Oh, he was so different,” she said this past week.

When he returned from the war, he was drinking heavily, evidently trying to forget, and in “the middle of the night, he would wake up screaming and hollering,” she said.

“You would be afraid to touch him. He would be about ready to fight,” she said.

In the decades after the war, he went through a series of jobs, and two failed marriages.

At the time of his beating death in 2009, Daniel was a 59-year-old homeless man — an alcoholic haunted by ghosts in his past — who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Last week, one of his killers, 19-year-old Robert Ramirez, pleaded no contest to beating Daniel to death.

Ramirez and his accomplice, 18-year-old Luis Rincon, planned to rob Pedro and Jesus Tire Shop near 12th Avenue West and 14th Street, prosecutors said.

They brought an aluminum baseball bat and a golf club, intending to smash the windows in the shop to commit a burglary.

When they came upon Daniel, they used the bat and club to beat him to death.

Case never said anything to the teens, never did anything to provoke an attack. His bloodied body was found Feb. 23, 2009, behind Griggs Plumbing, a place where he often stayed, according to a Bradenton Police report.

An employee of the business had called police after finding Case slumped over in a chair.

It was the kind of senseless, random violence we see too much of these days, where killers seem to have lost any respect for others, any respect for life itself.

To read the complete column, visit www.bradenton.com.