Fifteen Minutes of Infamy

The fisherman who rescued Elián, Donato Dalrymple, comes from a family with a violent history. And that's not the half of it.

On his last day alive, August 8, 1981, David's arms and legs were black and blue, there was a grotesque knot behind his ear, and his stomach was enlarged on one side due to internal injuries suffered at Lindy's hands, prosecutors alleged. David was throwing up his food, which witness Josephine LaFramboise said infuriated Lindy. "Lindy got mad and went in the bedroom and... picked up David by one arm and carried him upstairs, and I could hear him beating on the boy upstairs," LaFramboise said. "David never cried... all he was saying was, 'Mommy.'"

After David said he "forgot how to walk" and threw up bloody water, LaFramboise told Connie Dalrymple, who also lived in the house, that the boy needed to be taken to the hospital. Connie wouldn't hear of it, because she was worried doctors would find out about her brother Lindy's abuse, LaFramboise told prosecutors.

David was finally taken to the hospital later that evening and died there early the next morning.

Donato Dalrymple calls Elián his spiritual son but admits that his own home life is way too unstable for children
Bill Cooke
Donato Dalrymple calls Elián his spiritual son but admits that his own home life is way too unstable for children

The medical examiner's office determined that David died of beatings that occurred over a six-week period. Lindy recalls that he initially told detectives, "My father used to hit me, but I would never hit David that way." He was booked and jailed on charges of manslaughter and aggravated child abuse, and soon the Dalrymple family was all over the news in South Florida, which at the time was also absorbed in the disappearance of Adam Walsh.

Unlike his recent media embrace, Donato Dalrymple steadfastly avoided reporters back then. He says he never really wanted to know what happened to David. By his own admission, he never cared much about the boy when he was alive and wouldn't know him "if he showed up on my porch." He says he saw David on occasion but never played with him or even touched him, for that matter.

Just as he seemed to have blindly leapt onto the side of Elián's Miami relatives, Donato unquestioningly supported Lindy. Ignoring the truth contained in the court file, Donato still proclaims Lindy's innocence, calling his brother "the most sensitive, humble, and kindest man I've ever been around."

"Me and my brother are very, very close," Donato says. "It broke my heart -- here was an innocent young guy who was going to have to go prison. He was set up. There had to be a scapegoat, and my brother was the guy."

While he was out of jail on bond, Lindy and his cousin were married. At the same time, their families, the Dalrymples and the Wallers, began a nasty feud over David's killing. The main cause of the fighting: Patricia Waller's mother was cooperating with detectives against Lindy. She swore in a deposition that Donato, with Lindy next to him, chased her in his car and tried to run her off the road. Donato says he doesn't remember the event but concedes things between the families got ugly.

Lindy was sentenced to 15 years in prison, 7 of which he served. Today Lindy and Patricia Dalrymple live in Sunrise. Lindy still doesn't admit to killing David, but he does allow that he was a terrible person back then and concedes that he abused David. "I thank God for what happened with David," says Lindy, who has a clean record since coming out of prison. "I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wouldn't have happened."

Lindford Dalrymple, Sr. died in 1984 of cancer, but family members, including Donato, say it was the stress of Lindy's trial that really killed him. Their sister Connie, meanwhile, became a drug addict and is now in prison after being arrested in 1997 for prostitution, dealing cocaine within 1000 feet of a middle school, and fraud charges. Donato attributes his sister's problems to having too many children (five, with three different men).

"Like me, she was always looking for love in all the wrong places, but she wasn't fortunate enough to escape the children part of it like I was," Donato says.

Donato Dalrymple has been married four times, twice to the same woman, and he's looked for love in some pretty exotic places. He brought his first wife to the United States from Hungary in 1991, and in the space of the next 30 months, he married and divorced her twice. He found his second wife, Liliana Sanchez, in Colombia, and their two-year marriage was stormy and involved two police-documented fights. Dalrymple was listed as both a suspect and a victim in a domestic dispute in 1995, which was closed with no charge filed, according to Lauderhill police records. The following year he was clearly the victim: The back of his head was split open when Sanchez hit him with the point of a high-heeled shoe, according to police. "It was a relationship that wasn't normal," he says. "I was being pushed around. Then one day -- boom! -- I got whacked in the head with a shoe, and that was it."

Two years after divorcing Sanchez in 1997, he married Tetyana Polosina, whom he brought over from the Ukraine. He initially told New Times that he just happened to meet the woman he calls "Tanya" during a visit to Europe. But when told that his own mother said it was a marriage born of "correspondence," Dalrymple concedes he met her on the Internet, where the 26-year-old beauty (Dalrymple is 40) was advertising for an American husband. While the Ukraine has become a hub for the illegal sale of poverty-stricken women, Dalrymple says he didn't pay anything for his wife. He simply brought her to America. While his mother, Jennie Dalrymple, says Tanya has worked tirelessly to keep Dalrymple's cleaning business afloat while her husband has been busy with Elián, Dalrymple says Tanya only helps out occasionally and isn't his employee.

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