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Man finally arrested for death of Disney World Cast Member more than 8 years later

An arrest has finally been made in a case involving a man who struck and killed a Disney World Cast Member in 2013.

On St. Patrick’s Day eight-and-a-half years ago, Mahmoud Arabi was walking with friends as he crossed International Drive near the intersection of Vineland Road. He was struck and killed, but the driver of the vehicle that hit him sped away.

 

Mahmoud Arabi was living in central Florida at the time, as he was in the country as part of Disney’s internship program.

One year later, in March 2014, still no arrests had been made. Arabi’s family sought closure, and a youth leadership group stepped up to offer support in the case.

The American Muslim Youth Leadership Council worked to increase awareness about the incident, hoping their efforts would help lead to an arrest of the responsible party.

“I don’t even think after this man is caught we’ll have closure,” said a representative for the youth leadership council, “but I think it’ll be a first step toward closure.

The representative went on to say that the group felt that it had been long enough.

“I think it’s time,” he explained. “I think this case should take some sort of priority.”

At that time, Disney issued a statement, saying they had helped Arabi’s family and trusted Florida Highway Patrol in their efforts:

“Our hearts go out to Mahmoud’s family for their loss, and we have provided assistance to them during the past year. We respect the expertise of the Florida Highway Patrol as they continue to lead this investigation.”

After his death, Arabi’s mother, Nehed, who lives in Australia, made the journey to the United States to bring home her son’s body.

“His dreams were so high, his expectations of life, so, so high,” Nehed Arabi said of her son. “He could reach the stars if he chose to,”

It wasn’t until 2015 that an arrest warrant was issued for Jose Ruiz, the owner of the vehicle that struck Arabi, but there were no arrests for years, even with a warrant, which was agonizing for Nehed Arabi, the victim’s mother.

“I’m the one in jail. I’m the one that’s captive,” she said. “My life is gone. My family’s life is gone.”

It wasn’t until August of this year that Jose Ruiz was found in Pennsylvania, arrested, extradited to Florida and charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident with a death.

But Mahmoud Arabi’s mother says she’s still waiting for justice.

“We will not have full closure until justice is served and he is behind bars so he doesn’t do this to another family again,” she said.

Jose Ruiz is currently out on bond and awaiting his trial. If he is convicted and found guilty, he could face up to 4 years in prison.

About Becky Burkett

I'm a Lone Star State native whose idea of joy includes any combination of the following: cold weather, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 2 boys, my 2 girls, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history and being at Disney World. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birds at the Enchanted Tiki Room, scoring the 999,999 at Buzz's Space Ranger Spin, or trying for the highest score in the toybox at Toy Story Mania! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!