The news sickening everyone in Southern California that isn't the coming radiation plume is the robbery by two men of disabled Vietnam vet Michael Neil Shaurette as he waited in a Santa Ana bus stop in his wheelchair. It's a heinous crime, and the men who committed it will likely get no mercy from a judge or on the inside.
Then again, there is a sad story in the tale of one of the robbers: Robert Dean Joyce, better known as Bobby Joyce, better known as one of Orange County's greatest high-school-basketball players.
Joyce was a prep phenom during the late 1980s, playing football and basketball at Santa Ana High School and twice being named OC Player of the Year. His game was great enough that Orange County Register prep-sports reporter Steve Fryer--who knows everything there is to know about OC high-school sports--named Joyce to his list of the county's 25 best-ever prep hoops players.
He eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, making the team as a reserve at the end of Jerry Tarkanian's legendary Runnin' Rebels squads (he red-shirted for their 1990 championship run). Perhaps Joyce's most memorable moment as a college player was leading a team protest after a Nevada Regent allegedly said Tarkanian recruited too many "ghetto kids."
But that was the height of Joyce's glory; his life since then has been nothing but run-ins with the law. Court records show he pleaded guilty in 1997 to a felony for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, spending 16 months in state prison for that offense, and another felony in 2000 for attempting to possess a controlled substance, getting eight months in state prison for that crime. He pleaded guilty again in 2005 for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and then again in 2007; both times, they were felonies. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to two felonies: receiving stolen property and corporeal abuse of a spouse/cohabitant. Throughout that time, Joyce also committed misdemeanors.
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This life of crime and drug abuse pains Sean Mill, a Santa Ana planning commissioner and former friend of Joyce. "I thought it was rather ironic that he got arrested for such a heinous crime on the eve of March Madness," says Mill. "I recently reconnected with Bobby and even brought one of his former Runnin' Rebel teammates to come see him. I thought he was getting his life in order and even took him clothes shopping so he could get himself presentable in order to get a job. Now this.
"This really saddens me," Mill adds. "I can't believe he would do this. Bobby is a good guy, everyone really liked him. This is what drugs can do to a person."
Mill told the Weekly that he attended last year's 20th-anniversary celebration of the Runnin' Rebels' 1990 NCAA championship. "The first thing that guys like [former UNLV stars] Larry Johnson and Evric Gray asked me is 'Where's Bobby and how's he doing?' I spoke to one of his old Rebel teammates last night, and they were just so sad about this," Mill says. "I think this could be something of a lesson about how things can go so wrong even when you have the whole world in the palm of your hands.
"I am disgusted by what Bobby has done," Mill concluded, "but he is still my friend, and I want
other young athletes to learn from his story."