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Prosecutor returns from stroke more energized

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of Jacksonville's top prosecutors, who suffered a massive stroke while working out less than a week ago and spent four days in the hospital, has returned to work and to the gym.

Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei, 45, is the lead prosecutor in the cases against Ruben Ebron and Lonna Barton, as well as many others.

Mantei said he was mid-workout last Saturday when he felt sick, then collapsed. Trainers and some clients in the gym recognized that he was having a stroke and treated him until rescue personnel arrived. Mantei was airlifted to Baptist Medical Center downtown for surgery.

News4Jax caught up with Mantei Friday morning at the HIT Center on Philips Highway, where he is exercising again. He said he feels better and credits his quick return to health to all those who helped to ensure he got medical help quickly.

"It is because I was here, and it is because of the people here, and it is because of that medical team that treated me," Mantei said. "It is my version of a Christmas miracle."

Mantei said he had stroke because of a genetic issue and it had nothing to do with his job or his intense exercise schedule. He said it was going to happen no matter what, and he's so thankful it happened when he had trained people around.

Mantei said he won't let his brush with death get in the way of doing his job.

"There are a few people who say, 'Well, what does this mean for the cases that you are handling?' I'll tell you what it is. Well I'm probably back because I need to deal with them a little more energized right now even than I was before. And if this didn't kill me, we are in this for the long haul."

Ebron and Barton are scheduled to go on trial Jan. 11 on charges connected to the disappearance of Lonzie Barton.


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