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Two Lives Are Joined In Death; After Scrapes With Law, Teen Dad Was Building Future For His Family
By JESSICA HESLAM
April 20, 2003
Growing up poor in housing projects in the shadows of the hallowed halls of Harvard University, Michael Colono struggled with alcohol and had scrapes with the law, but relatives said he was heading down the right path.
Colono, 18, whose life was cut short last week in a late-night fight outside a pizza shop, did a stint in rehab, fathered a child and was busted peddling drugs all before he was old enough to vote.
But his family says he wanted to become a carpenter and was working hard on building a future with a girlfriend that he loved and their 3-year-old daughter, Leah Jady.
"Being poor is a struggle, but Michael never had a history of carrying a knife, gun or weapon of any kind. He was working full time and bettering himself every day. He knew he had a bright future ahead of him. He didn't deserve to die," said his older brother, Marcos Colono, 25.
Michael Colono, a hotel cook allegedly stabbed to death by Harvard graduate student Alexander Pring-Wilson, was the youngest of five children. His housewife mother, Ada, and his machine operator father, Gabriel, who was recently laid off from the Necco candy factory, immigrated from Puerto Rico for a better life.
"He grew up in a good home. His family was respectable and worked hard," said former neighbor Denise Sibert.
When he was 15, Colono became a father. When he was 16, he dropped out of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where he was enrolled in the vocational and technical program.
"Michael and I had quite a few conversations in his last year, and he decided a GED was a good move for him. He got it as quickly as anyone I know. He came back and showed me," said a school administrator who did not want to be identified.
When pressed if Colono had behavior problems in school, the official said, "He didn't always do what he probably needed to do."
Colono, who began battling booze and drugs at a young age, has a criminal record stretching back several years. He also hung out with a rough crowd.
In July 2001, a drunk Colono threatened several cops who arrested him for trespassing, according to police reports.
"He remained belligerent and discourteous the entire time. . . . (We) smelled the strong odor of alcohol emanating from his breath. He further stated that he was going to have his `Lion Boys' take us out," a Cambridge detective wrote.
Two months later, Colono was busted and later pleaded guilty to pushing crack cocaine. The cops found the stash on him after the boozed-up Colono threw money at a pizza shop cashier and shattered the shop's glass door. He was on probation for the incident at the time of his death.
He soon landed at the Brighton Treatment Center, a three- to five- month residential program that deals with anger management and substance abuse.
"Michael is a very mature and respectful individual who has been taking his treatment seriously," a counselor wrote.
In a letter to the courts, Colono's mother begged authorities to help her help her baby boy, saying his conduct has been "inadequate and unstable" since age 13.
"When he was still in high school he was evaluated by a psychiatrist who determined that he had a problem with concentration and learning. He also has very low self-esteem," his mother wrote in a letter filed at Cambridge District Court.
Ada Colono, who speaks fluent Spanish and little English, said she believed those problems led her son to become addicted to alcohol.
"I think that he is too young to deal with these problems and therefore has also turned to delinquent activities that are going to end up causing even more problems," she wrote.
For the last few months, Colono had been working at the Tavern on the Charles at the Days Hotel in Brighton, where he was well-liked and respected, a manager said. He lived with his parents and kept a neat room, where he watched Walt Disney movies with his daughter.
Early on April 12, after working an eight-hour shift, Colono, called Mizz by his friends, got into a beef with Pring-Wilson, who claims he was attacked by Colono and his cousin.
Colono's girlfriend of four years, Cindy Guzman, 19, said her beau wouldn't start a fight for the fun of it.
"He has a lot of pride. If anyone would talk crap about him he would protect himself, but he wouldn't start anything for the fun of it," Guzman said. "God knows what happened, and he'll take care of it."