Tuesday, February 17, 2009

From the Miami Herald crime files

I was poking around in the Herald's story archives today when I came across this classic example of crime reportage from 1982 by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Edna Buchanan.

No one - before or since - told a crime tale better than Edna. This one has several delicious only-in-Miami twists that Edna excelled in digging up.

The story, loaded with detail - a hallmark of Edna's reporting - reads like a Miami Vice script.

I'm posting the entire article here because it's too good not to share.

I'll do this from time to time, or until I hear from the Herald's copyright attorneys.
Author: EDNA BUCHANAN Herald Staff Writer

The execution-style mass murder of four Latin men Wednesday in a well-kept and quiet Miami apartment building apparently was drug related, police said.

None of the victims, aged 25 to 35, lived in the fourth- floor apartment where they died.

They were bound, gagged and face down on the chocolate- colored shag carpet when somebody shot each one of them in the head.

It is the first quadruple murder city of Miami police have investigated this year.

Investigators usually complain of a problem finding witnesses who will admit hearing shots. That was not the situation Wednesday.

Everybody in the five-story building heard shots -- morning and afternoon.

Most of--and perhaps all--the shots heard by tenants at the attractive 70-unit apartment house at 665 NE 83rd Ter., were fired by William Fries.

They had nothing to do with the mass murder.

Fries, 26, of Metro Fire and Safety Inc., busily was installing brand new shiny fire extinguishers on each floor, a total of 20 of them. He used a powerful cartridge-powered nail driver. Shots fired by the tool, a Hilti DX 400, startled residents all day.

They even startled jumpy homicide detectives who arrived to investigate the murders shortly after 2:30 p.m.

Fries did say that when he installed the new fire engine red extinguisher on the wall near Apt. 406, he heard movement inside, behind the peach-colored door.

It sounded like someone who was startled, scrambling about to see the source of the sharp, cracking sounds from his nail gun.

Most of the neighbors came out to watch Fries at work. No one emerged from Apt. 406.

At about 2:30 p.m., Samuel Torres, 45, an unemployed truck driver and the listed tenant of Apt. 406, arrived home. He did not have his key.

And no one answered the door.

He had left four men there -- two of them friends -- at 5:45 a.m., he said later. Torres went to the first floor and asked the manager, Manuel Munoz, 34, for a pass key to enter his one-bedroom, $330- a-month apartment.

Torres returned "crying and confused," Munoz said.

"I came back and I found all my friends dead," he told a neighbor.

Munoz said he "opened the door and [saw] four people."

He called police.

Two of the bodies were "neatly laid out in the middle of the living room, side by side," Officer Juan Santos said. Another lay in the corner of the room, the fourth in an opposite corner. Chairs were overturned.

Three were identified by police, who withheld their names until their families are notified. At least one of the victims is Colombian, Homicide Sgt. Dennis Downey said. None had extensive arrest records, police said.

Torres, described by the manager as "a quiet tenant, never a problem," was taken to headquarters for questioning.

He told police that during the night he answered a knock at the door of his sparsely furnished apartment and admitted four visitors. Two were friends, he said. They had been drinking, he said, and asked if they could stay.

He agreed, left the key with them, and went job-hunting he told police.

When discovered, all four were bound hand and foot and gagged.

A package containing about a pound of white powder, possibly narcotics, was found in the apartment, police said.

"We're still putting the pieces together," Homicide Detective Nelson Andreu said, "but the evidence tends to indicate that the motive was drug related."

Police speculated on a possible connection to a Coral Gables murder early Wednesday.

In that case, neighbors also heard shots, at 1:30 a.m.

They were the real thing. When police arrived, in the 400 block of Cadugua Avenue, they found a Colombian man, bound and gagged and dead at the side of the road.

The caliber weapon used in both cases "is similar," Homicide Sgt. Mike Gonzalez said.

The apartment house where the bodies were found Wednesday overlooks single-family homes and duplexes and is shaded by towering umbrella trees. Tenants say that by 10 p.m. the building is quiet and peaceful.

A man fatally wounded by Hialeah police when he tried to flee a narcotics arrest Friday, however, lived next door, at 671 NE 83rd Ter. It is unknown whether Henry Parra, 23, was acquainted with any of Wednesday's victims.

Munoz, manager of the building where the mass murder took place, said Wednesday that the owner will beef up security.

In March, two men and a pregnant woman were slain in an unsolved, drug related slaying at a posh private home five blocks from Wednesday's deaths.

In South Dade last year, six Colombian men and women, were murdered in a swanky housing development protected by a guardhouse. And in Miami, in 1980, four Latin men and women were killed in an apartment. Those slayings, all unsolved, also were drug related, police said.

Edition: FINAL

Section: LOCAL Page: 1B

1 comment:

  1. One of the best Buchanan ledes of all time:

    "Gary Robinson died hungry."


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