Panhandler posing as homeless vet wants to change

10:44 PM, Jul 19, 2013   |    comments
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Rudy and Hannah Saunders. (July 19, 2013)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- WZZM 13 featured Steve Spadorcia earlier this week in a 13 On Your Side Watchdog report on panhandling in Grand Rapids. He was killed Wednesday night.

Friday, WZZM 13's Hannah Saunders met up with Rudy, one of Spadorcia's friends. He says it's been a rough week.

Rudy says he's ready to make some changes after his best friend was found murdered over what was said to be an argument about a woman.

"We were planning on going to Florida to visit my brother and it never happened because he died senselessly," Rudy said. "He might have had a drinking problem just like I do, but he's a beautiful person. He was a beautiful man, and he had a good heart."

On Monday, WZZM 13 showed Rudy panhandling with a very misleading slogan; his sign claimed he was a veteran. We asked him if he felt guilty about lying.

He replied, "No, uh, yeah, kind of. It's better than stealing or doing drugs." Rudy says he did it because he found the sign. "The vets, I'm sorry for what I did. You're beautiful people who protect our country."

Rudy wasn't very happy to see WZZM 13's Hannah Saunders at first, but was eager to show off his new cardboard.

"I actually found this sign too, but it doesn't say homeless vet, because I am not a vet."

Rudy says this whole experience has been embarrassing but claims his conscience is now at ease.

"I was putting up a front and a lie by holding up that sign and I was wrong, and I admit it, and I'm sorry. I just hope that people find it in their hearts to forgive me," he says. He claims he won't do it anymore.

Hannah asked him, "The last time we talked you said you're not ready to give up alcohol yet. Does this change anything?"

"Yes and no. I mean, I can't just change overnight," he answered.

Rudy will continue to work the Pearl Street, U.S. 131 corner downtown.

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