FAIRBORN – Crystal Rodriguez is on a mission to complete what he left behind when her fiance was stabbed to death.
Andre Winston, 38, of Beavercreek, was fatally stabbed in Fairborn last month and Rodriguez spent the following hours after his death believing he was still alive.
“Dre was a teacher,” Rodriguez, who spent the past eight years in a relationship with him, said. “He had a way with words … He was a very religious man and he felt that God had him on some sort of mission – not necessarily to spread the word of God – but to be able to reach people who needed it at the time… Dre had that ability, that voice of reason, and was able to diffuse situations for the most part. No one who ever met him could have forgotten him.”
Winston was stabbed in the night hours of July 22 allegedly by Joseph Jenkins, 44, of Fairborn, at an apartment building near the intersection of Wallace Drive and Williams Street in Fairborn following an altercation. Winston died either shortly before or after arriving at Miami Valley Hospital.
Rodriguez was not present when the stabbing took place, however, she understands that the events leading to his death included him acting in a way to prevent another violent act from taking place against a different individual. Winston not only left behind Rodriguez, but also their 5-year-old daughter Mariah, and a 14-year-old step son Maurice, as well.
“He was one of the few people in this world who could live in the moment and know the important things, but also had the vision of the bigger things,” Rodriguez said. “He knew that there was a lot of bad things happening, but the only way to change the world was to reach one person at a time, because he truly believed that the only way to change things was to change the way people think. The only way to do that was to talk to them in a way that could reach them, and that’s what ‘Dre tried to do.”
She describes Winston as soft-spoken and willing to listen to people as they describe their dreams. She said he would easily become passionate about other people’s ideas as they explained them. When it came to fatherhood, Rodriguez said he was patient and loving. When parenting Mariah, he would take his time in getting her ready in the morning, being sure that she looked nice, and getting to know the teachers at school. She said he was always willing to explain why the word “no” would exit his mouth in order to teach her. After Mariah? was born, she said he held her in his arms, and seemed immediately comfortable and at ease. He encouraged Maurice to protect his little sister, and said he and his siblings had the same age difference as his own children.
“He was a great father, and he never thought he would ever have kids,” she said. “[When Mariah was born], that was the happiest day of his life … Andre would take the time to talk to her so she would understand, and he was always so protective. I want him to know that she’s okay and I’ll protect her, and won’t let anything happen to her … You could see the joy in his face and in his voice, his eyes, when he would look at her.”
Winston was originally from North Carolina, but was an Ohio resident for the past eight years. Rodriguez said he had plenty of southern hospitality to spare, and had immense respect for his mother.
“When I say he loved his mother, I mean he really loved his mother,” she said. “I can’t even begin to tell you – he had so much love and respect for her, and he was so proud that she was his mom.”
Winston was visiting friends in the area the night the stabbing took place, while Rodriguez was finishing homework at their residence. He was killed around 10:30 p.m., and she remembers completing her homework and dialing his number at 10:32 that same night. When he didn’t answer, she called again.
Eventually she logged on Facebook and saw Winston’s best friend asking for someone to reach out immediately, so she did. He told her that Winston had been stabbed, which led her to drive to the hospital. However, their lack of marital status prevented her from immediately receiving information from hospital officials. When a hospital officer informed Winston’s best friend that he had passed, however, Rodriguez did not initially believe it. She saw another family at the hospital grieving the death of someone else, and believed that the hospital officials had Winston and another victim confused.
She observed the family members of the other individual who passed as they cried and came together outside the hospital. She remembers hearing the other individual’s mother scream, and hearing Winston’s mother scream the same way later in the night.
“There were so many signs that I needed to come to terms that he had passed,” Rodriguez said. “I’m sitting there at the hospital on the street watching this whole family’s life fall apart. I remember looking at them like, ‘that can’t be me, I’m not about to go through that,’ but it was almost like I was seeing exactly what I was about to go through and I didn’t want to accept it.”
She did not return home until the early morning hours of the next day, still believing that Winston was still alive. She checked her phone after she awoke for the day a few hours after returning home, and saw headlines stating that the stabbing turned fatal. At that point, it hit her and she felt as though she was paralyzed.
“When I saw that headline, that the Fairborn stabbing turned fatal, I’ll never forget that,” she said. “People try to explain how it feels, but I can’t. It seriously feels like everything inside you is being sucked out all at once like it’s a vacuum. I couldn’t breathe, I just fell to the ground and I got so scared because I felt like my body was going to shut down. I couldn’t even move to call anyone and I just stared at my phone and looked at that headline – and my life changed forever. In that moment, I felt like my life was over.”
She wishes for Winston to be remembered as a hero, because “he died saving someone else’s life,” she said. She hopes to start The Andre Winston Foundation in the future, and feels as though his mission has been passed on to her.
“He was the best person I’ve ever met, he really was,” Rodriguez said. “When people used to talk about being a free spirit, I never knew what that meant. We were almost opposites, with me always wanting to go, go, go, with all my goals and dreams – I wanted to be successful and get a better job so I could have a better life, and Andre would always try to tell me to slow down and enjoy life in the moment so you can find satisfaction in the things that matter in life.”
Joseph Jenkins was indicted for the killing by a grand jury Tuesday.
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532.