MIDDLEBOROUGH — There were many times over the past year when Michael Dutra’s family thought they might lose him, as the nurse and father of two battled a serious infection.
But they never thought he would meet his end the way he did last Friday night, alone on a dark, narrow road, after a hit-and-run driver left him for dead.
Five days later, with no arrest and few clues, Dutra’s wife, daughters, and siblings are begging the person responsible for killing Dutra, 58, as he pedaled his bike home from the grocery store to come forward.
“How can this happen?” said Dutra’s daughter Michelle, 27.
On Wednesday, the Dutras — Michelle, her sister Shannon, 23, and Dutra’s wife, Debra, along with Dutra’s siblings — laughed and cried while recalling the man who was so inspired by his 1991 liver transplant surgery that he left construction to become a nurse.
‘Someone took my family from me. I pray they have a conscience, so we can have closure.’
Debra and Michael Dutra began dating when she was 15 and were together for 41 years. Although they had separated in recent years, Dutra had moved back in and they spent as much time with their daughters as they could, including dinner every Sunday.
“It’s been such a long road,’’ Debra Dutra said. “I just don’t understand. For it to end like this? It makes no sense.”
Dutra had a quirky sense of humor, his family said, and had installed a device on his bike to hold his fishing pole when illness forced him to stop driving.
Dutra’s bike was also outfitted with blinking and flashing lights, his daughters said, so he should have been visible to whoever hit him Friday night. And even if the driver wasn’t paying attention, it is a “moral responsibility” to come forward, the family said.
“Once they drove away it became murder,’’ said Dutra’s sister, Christine Eisner of Sharon.
Investigators said they are looking for a light-colored 2005 to 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee with significant front-end damage that may include a missing or broken right reflector, a shattered right headlight, and right front bumper damage.
The crash occurred a little after 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 in the 200 block of Wood Road, just past Nichols Middle School. Now, a handful of sunflowers, some roses, a potted pepper plant, a candle, and silver pinwheel mark the spot by a small stone wall where Dutra died.
Middleborough and State Police, and investigators from the Plymouth district attorney’s office are asking for the public’s help to find the driver. On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said there are no new leads.
The family is in the process of setting up a reward for credible information so that the investigation can end and allow his daughters to grieve and celebrate his life.
Dutra placed his daughters at the center of his world, yet disconnected the batteries of their cars when he was annoyed with them, they said. And he loved to cook so much that there was a vat of Portuguese soup simmering on the stove the night he died, after he cycled off to the supermarket to get ingredients for a chili cook-off.
Michelle Dutra said she is glad she recently tried on her wedding dress for her father, but is brokenhearted that he will never see her married. Nor will he attend Shannon’s graduation in January from Bridgewater State University.
“Someone took my family from me,’’ Shannon Dutra said quietly. “I pray they have a conscience, so we can have closure.”
Services for Michael Dutra will be held Friday at the Crapo Hathaway Funeral Home in Taunton from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.