The Chef and the "Amigo"

A rape shines a harsh light on life at Palm Beach's oldest country club.

On the night of April 1, 2006, a young chef dropped by her coworker's dorm room at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach to pass the warm hours with wine and music.

Melissa, whose last name New Times is withholding to protect her privacy, was a 20-year-old white woman with dark hair, a firm jaw, and a slender, willowy frame. She grew up in Maine and carried the confidence that comes from being at home in the wilderness. "I never saw a woman that could handle a kitchen the way she did," one former coworker remembers.

She worked a day shift in the club's kitchen, earning $13 an hour preparing sandwiches for the millionaires who dined in the terrace restaurant. Sometimes, early in the mornings, she'd make sandwiches for the dishwashers who worked alongside her or whip up bacon and eggs for the men in the locker room who arrived early for a game of golf.

The Everglades Club anchors the west end of Palm Beach's Worth Avenue.
Photo by Flickr user VeronicaCastillo.com
The Everglades Club anchors the west end of Palm Beach's Worth Avenue.
Palm Beach elite have partied in the Everglades Club ballroom for nearly a century.
Florida History Internet Center
Palm Beach elite have partied in the Everglades Club ballroom for nearly a century.

That evening in her friend's room, Melissa watched Finding Nemo, sipping Chardonnay and singing while another friend played the guitar. After a couple of hours, she left and went back to her own dorm on Worth Avenue. She stopped by the room down the hall where her boyfriend, Ryan Jones (also white), lived, to give him a kiss good night, according to her testimony in a court deposition. Then she went to her own room and fell sound asleep.

Around 4 a.m., Melissa later said, she awoke in the darkness to find a man on top of her. Terrified but groggy, she tried to push him away. He pinned her arms behind her head and kept pressing himself inside her.

She kicked and squirmed, finally escaping his grasp and reaching for the light switch so she could see his face. He flipped the light off. Melissa started yelling.

"I was calling him a sick fuck and... asking him why he was doing this," she would later recall.

Finally, Melissa said, she was able to push her attacker into the bedside table. As he scrambled to pull his shorts on, she grabbed his hair and pulled his head back so she could see his face. He had dark hair, mocha skin. She recognized him from the kitchen and would later identify him as Esdras Cardona, a 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant.

He ran out the door. She started after him, then realized she was bleeding and naked from the waist down.

She raced back to her room to cover herself. When she emerged again, her neighbor opened his door and saw Melissa's disarray.

"What happened?" she remembered him asking in her court deposition.

"One of the amigos had been in my room and raped me," she blurted out.

The Everglades Club was not prepared for such a crime. As the oldest and most exclusive country club on an island renowned for wealth and privacy, it thrives on a policy of genteel secrecy that would make Dick Cheney proud.

All employees must sign confidentiality agreements. Current members fear getting kicked out if they criticize club leadership. If the police show up at the club's Worth Avenue campus, it usually doesn't make headlines.

On that hot night three years ago, neither Melissa nor her attacker could know how badly the crime would shatter the club's pristine image. A small tear in the blue-blood fabric was all it took, and suddenly, the world was allowed a peek inside the club's strange universe of racial tensions, religious discrimination, and illegal laborers. Soon, the old guard was forced to defend traditions that had gone unquestioned for decades. And no amount of money could make the problem disappear.


Some say membership at the Everglades Club buys you the most expensive parking space on Palm Beach's main drag, Worth Avenue. For about $10,000 a year, members gain access to the 18-hole golf course, tennis and croquet courts, and the dining areas where a live band plays nearly every night. From the street, the club's cream-colored Mediterranean buildings, complete with Spanish-tile roofs, turrets, and bell tower, look stately and historic. The public is not allowed past the carefully guarded driveway, but old black-and-white photos show interior rooms with vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers. Nestled on the Intracoastal Waterway, the club is a coveted spot for holding lavish weddings and events.

But the physical amenities have never been the real draw. Membership at the Everglades Club is about prestige. People pay to join an elite social circle steeped in glamorous history.

The Everglades' roots reach back nearly a century. Paris Singer, whose father, Isaac, made millions off the sewing machine that bore his name, hired architect Addison Mizner to build a hospital on Worth Avenue for returning World War I veterans. But the hospital never opened, and in 1919, Singer turned the sprawling estate into the island's first private club. Over the years, the Everglades' reputation and membership roster would become legendary — and not always for complimentary reasons. It was known just as much for whom it excluded as for whom it welcomed to red carpet events.

Joseph Kennedy, father of the slain president, was a member, but he resigned in the early '60s to avoid scrutiny for belonging to a club known for excluding blacks and Jewish people. Renowned socialite C.Z. Guest once told a reporter that she and her husband were temporarily suspended from the club after they brought Jewish guests — Estee Lauder and her husband — to a party there in 1972. And Kleenex heir James Kimberly talked of how he and Sammy Davis Jr. once showed up together at the club only to have a doorman escort them back to the parking lot.

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30 comments
abovethemall
abovethemall

"It is plesant, when the winds are high and dashing the waves about, to watch from the shore the struggles of another"

DDDuane
DDDuane

This sounds like a great club!!!You mean there is still a place that allows Freedom of Association for Whites?The girl is White...The defence should have been: "SHE RAPED THE POOR DEFENSELESS ILLEGAL ALIEN...."

It's really miraculous that the "poor but HONEST equadorian didn't knife herso she didn't report him....

Guest
Guest

Racist shithole and I would'nt spend a dime in a place like this

atosha
atosha

1.How did he get in her room?2.Why didn't she smack him round the head with the lamp shade?3.Rape is rape it has no colour.

Holy ghost
Holy ghost

Yeah, guy's a scuzz no danger. Where he needs to be now.

morgino
morgino

So my mom just fired her mexican maid for stealing....then today she called me because the mexican that she hired to paint her house was stealing my dead grandfathers shit out of her garage......yeah, they are just all hard working salt of the earth people

Scgoodegg
Scgoodegg

Wow. Anyone thiink of Who Killed a Mockingbird ? in this shit. What fucking racists. They're segregated and shit.. This is SUCH bullshit !

susan
susan

That girl is such a damn liar!!!! She probably stole the toothbrush out of that guys room and planted it in her room. Her and her boyfriend planned this bogus rape to sue the club and get money. Her attitude and statements during and following the alleged rape, is not sufficient to the way she acted afterwards. How does she going from calling him a sick fuck while he is raping her to lying in the fetal position crying????? What bullshit. Someone needs to help this innocent man get out of prison and file charges against her for filing a false police report and lying while under oath!!!!!

timm1955
timm1955

the problems with the illegal immigrants is going to come to a head soon. these people come from a DIFFERENT CULTURE. in mexico, rape isn't considered much of a crime. even rape of children. and this moron posting as viva la raza is an example of why they need to go. lying sob. hispanics come here not only to work, but a huge portion of them see coming here as a great opportunity to commit all manner of crimes and if caught, simply make a run for the border, get new i.d and come back in a year or so and start again. they have come to look at americans as gullible and naive. if an american went to a south american country and behaved in a similar manner, breaking numerous laws, they would find themselves in a prison with very inhumane conditions. these people are simply less civilized, and have come to realize that america is truly the land of opportunity. an opportunity to rape, rob, steal, and murder. get rid of ALL of them. "we only want to come here and work" my aching ass.. i hope you democrat super libs are ashamed.

KillAllSpicGarbage
KillAllSpicGarbage

Hispanics are the garbage remnants of the DNA chain. Kill 'em all, Let God sort 'em out. It's not o coincidence that feces and Hispanics are both bown colored. Filthy animals.

Leslie
Leslie

I find it ironic that statements decrying racism are being posted by someone with the username "Viva La Raza" or "Long Live the Race." Clearly the Everglades club is racist. But apparently you are, too.

Viva La Raza
Viva La Raza

Please continue to bring in the illegal immigrants! we are good people not criminals! only racist people accuse

Viva La Raza
Viva La Raza

Please keep hiring the illegal immigrants! we good for America! we not here to commit the crimes. only racist people accuse us!

Roxy
Roxy

It is sad how racial, classist, and sexist barrier stand in the way of justice.

NatTurner
NatTurner

What does a tootbrush with DNA prove if that brush came from his dorm after his arrest? One must assume that police have never ever in the history of America planted evidence...and the fact that the Club protected their reputation like it was prestine 1960 plantation leaves me to believe they would so anything to get this case solved an off the front pages. If the accused insist on more detailed DNA that he must pay for, I will always believe those test prove his innocense!

$10,000 a year per member and the club doesnt even pony up for the 40K test. This makes this case stink to high heaven. A man rots in a jail on circumstantial evidence!

Luba
Luba

The facts are all there: a toothbrush with DNA, a t-shirt, where-a-bouts not established, story changing and the victim's quick and easy identification. As far as the perpetrator's feverish devotion to his religion, used as a ploy of innocense by the his counsel, "religious addiction" comes to mind. As a licensed psychotherapist, that is also a Certified Multiple Addiction Professional, as well as a Certified Sexual Addiction Professional, various religions (especially Catholicism) have certainly seen the negative quality that Carl Jung spoke of, as the shadow/dark side of their leaders. The perpetrator's counsel would be doing this man, and society at large, a service in suggesting that he be placed in a treatment program during his prison term, which is, sadly, highly unlikely. Or to be mandated into treatment upon his release as a sex offender. And since his U.S. citizenship was not identified, deportation may be indicated. As far as the victim, my heart goes out to her! she can also be advised of available treatment. Sadly, many human beings suffer fom all types of traumas in their lifetime. Traumas, such as emotional, sexual and physical, are rampant, unfortunately. The good news is that there are some wonderful psychotherapists that are trained in trauma resolution and PTSD. A good professional would certainly be able to assist a "willing" person in their healing process to transform from victim to empowerment. There are many contemporary tools that are effective in treatment today, such as a "rapid eye movement" modality called EMDR. Finally, as far as "clubs," such as The Everglades in Palm Beach, being exposed for their "crimes to humanity," all I have to say is loud "hooray!!" That this is still exsists in our day and age is mind-blowing! However, sadly, I'm sure there are others that pepper cities in the U.S., as well as all over the world. Now that The Everglades Club in Palm Beach has been exposed as the home to the "faux-elite," I hope that other people in Palm Beach County will take note and stand for the truth. Ignorance breeds prejudice! Case Close. If anyone seeks consultation and/or treatment for any of the disorders that were mentioned, please email or call Luba: loveluba@netzero/#954-701-5822.

Rights4whites
Rights4whites

Why don't you go get fucked in the ass and try to defend yourself? Geez, if you live, you must be guilty...

NOLADarling
NOLADarling

@morgino Maybe you're mom should stop trying to hire people who have little options but to work for slave wages, while expecting them to not try to make up the difference elsewhere. I've hired people of all races to do work for me and find that you wind up paying the same amount one way or another so you might as well pay up front.

Keeley
Keeley

maybe theyre stealing because theyre poor or immoral not because theyre mexican

Belg1986
Belg1986

Your mom sounds like she has money... Maybe she should pay to educate you a little more, as you sound completely ignorant...  

Randy
Randy

"Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project, said he's not questioning whether Melissa was raped, just whether Cardona committed the crime."

You are a complete moron. No one connected with the investigation or the criminal trial doubts the woman was raped. Your ignorant and stupid ranting reflects why sexual assault is vastly under-reported and often difficult to prosecute.I practice criminal law and I've seen how rape victims behave after being raped- from within a few hours of the assault to months later when they testify in court. Just what knowledge and experience do you base your stupid, ignorant, bigoted lie upon?

Hello
Hello

SAME OLD WOMAN-HATING VICTIM-BLAMING BULLSHIT!!!! WHAT DID I EXPECT WHEN I READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO WAS BRUTALIZED AND THE AUTHOR - TOTALLY PREDICTABLY!!!- TURNS IT INTO A SOB STORY ABOUT AN ILLEGAL ALIEN. FUCK ALL OF YOU.

liz2282
liz2282

Wow, the amount of ignorance in the bullshit you spewed all over this page is unbelievable! "Simply less civilized"?! You sound like fucking Hitler. Lastly, while trying to make a point on how supreme your race is, you might want to learn how to write and use correct grammar and spelling, because it's just showing how stupid you actually are.

liz2282
liz2282

"Remnant of the DNA chain"? That doesn't even make sense, you fucking idiot.

jrserna92
jrserna92

@KillAllSpicGarbage go fuck yourself stupid ass gringo. hijo de mil putas. eres una mierda. tell that to a hispanic in the face and see what happens fucking piece of shit.

Mas
Mas

 Your screen name says it all about you.

Belg1986
Belg1986

wow... I'm going to use part of your name to describe you: Garbage. You sound like the remnant of the DNA chain to me... How idiotic are you? What makes me even more disguisted by your stupid comment is that you have the nerve to use the word God... Jackass! 

 
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