BRADENTON — Bradenton’s Gary Robinson, who grew up in Belle Glade, spent about 30 of his 51 years behind bars for various offenses, according to his family.
But the past was all forgiven by his family Saturday night and into Sunday as about 20 family members held a roughly 30-hour vigil for him under the DeSoto Bridge spanning the Manatee River connecting Palmetto to downtown Bradenton along U.S. 41 and U.S. 301.
The family said Robinson, a member of Bible Baptist Church in Palmetto, jumped from the bridge in an apparent suicide around noon Saturday. They waited all Sunday for authorities to find his body so they could be with him, said Robinson’s mother, Bradenton’s Essie Woods.
By 6 p.m. Sunday, as darkness crept in, the body was recovered near the Green Bridge fishing pier, according to Palmetto Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Tyler.
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“He drove his truck up on the bridge then threw on the brakes,” Woods said. “He got out with his Bible and yelled, ‘Someone call 911 because I can’t swim.’ Then, he got on the rail and jumped.
“I don’t know why he did it,” Woods added.
The family said Robinson had been in great spirits of late. He was not depressed, they said. He was planning to get married in December to a Bradenton woman.
“It’s between him and God,” said Jack Robinson, one of Gary Robinson’s five siblings at the bridge Sunday, including brothers, Jack and Dale Robinson, and sisters, Luvonnie Hunter, Jacqueline Persons and Janet Robinson.
After a daylight search Saturday, authorities from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Palmetto Police Department, along with a helicopter crew from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, resumed Sunday searching the Manatee River until just before darkness when the body was located.
Gary Robinson’s body will be taken to the Manatee County Medical Examiner’s Office, authorities said.
As they waited and scanned the dark waters, the family recalled a man who was a bright light, funny, friendly, caring, but who had also gotten in his share of problems.
“On one hand you could call him a problem child because he was locked up a lot, in fact, about 30 of his 51 years, but on the other, he was a good guy,” said brother Dale Robinson, who said burglary was one of his brother’s problems.
“I wasn’t with him that much,” Dale Robinson added wistfully of his brother. “He had been out of jail for about two years straight. To me, it wasn’t like him to do something like this.”
When it comes to family, what is done is done and there are times that everyone must stick together. That is why the family waited together, they said.
“Gary was fun, always smiling,” said family member Iesha Vernett. “He was always positive.”
Gary Robinson’s mother had been at the bridge all night. His favorite niece out of his roughly 30 nieces, Kenyatta Foster of Fort Myers, stayed with Essie Woods overnight at the bridge.
She and other family members said Gary Robinson had recently “given his life to Jesus Christ.”
“He always had a joke,” said his sister, Jacqueline Persons. “He was a Red Foxx copycat. He kept you laughing. If he were here now, he would say something to get everyone smiling.”