By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Fabio developed bipolar disorder after his retirement, Jamie says. "He went through episodes of mania," she explains. "He would spend all of his money, shoplift, and drive around like a maniac. It wasn't him. It was his illness." His wife left him, and Fabio was arrested several times in the last years of his life.
After all the legal troubles, Jamie checked her father into a hospital for psychiatric treatment. He didn't adjust well. "Trust me, he had his problems," Jamie says. "But it was hard for him to go from being king of his business to living with schizophrenic people."
On July 21, 2008, Jamie's cell phone rang as she stepped into a yoga class. She recognized the number: Miami Beach Police. The voice on the other line told her to come to the station, that something was wrong. Intuitively, she knew her father was dead. She went straight to the condo and found crime-scene tape stretched across the parking lot.
Fabio had made his way to the fire escape on the 11th floor and slid out a window. He left no suicide note.
Jamie hasn't been back to the building since. "It's so hard to lose your dad," she says, blinking away tears. "I lost him to the disorder long before he died."
Friday, August 22, 2008
12:03 p.m., Triton Tower, Miami Beach
Hector was 72 years old but looked much younger. Each morning, before his wife and son awoke, he'd walk for miles — sometimes from Bal Harbour to the southern end of the island. He had been depressed for years. "My dad used to give money to the less fortunate who lived on the beach," his son says. "While other people walked away from them, my dad talked to them."
When Hector's wife was away shopping August 22, he penned a goodbye note to his family. Afterward, he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed himself once in the chest and again in the lower torso. The blade tore through his teal polo shirt, but the wounds were shallow. When the knife didn't work, he stumbled to the window of his eighth-floor condo and jumped into a grassy yard.
Fire-rescue workers pronounced him dead at the scene.
His note read, "Adiós a todos" — goodbye to all — "8-22-2008."
Monday, September 22, 2008
6:02 p.m., Hamptons South, Aventura
It was a windy Monday, and Leon was sick of his job. The 39-year-old New Jersey native had hazel eyes and a short crop of curly brown hair. A newly married man with bipolar disorder, he resigned from his position at Communication Consultant Group before lunchtime. After he quit, he called his mother and told her the news. She picked him up at the train station and took him to therapy. Then they had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, where they ate rice and vegetables.
Back at his parents' condo that afternoon, his mom and dad retired for a nap. While they slept, he leapt from the eighth-floor balcony and crashed onto a chair below. The sound of police officers knocking at the door woke his father a couple of hours later.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
2:47 a.m., Palms of Alton Road, Miami Beach
Terry, a blond bartender at the gay nightclub Twist, left an 11-page handwritten suicide note on his kitchen table. It was addressed to different family members and offered bits of advice. To his younger cousin, he wrote, "Get an education." Dropping out of school was one of the things Terry regretted most.
Terry was born in 1971, the youngest of three sons, in a quiet Detroit suburb. He was "an extremely good-looking child," remembers his mom, Ellie, "and one of the rowdiest kids in his nursery school."
He left home at age 18, dropped out of community college, and became a Buddhist. He eventually ended up in South Beach. The pay was good at the bar, and Terry was generous with his cash. If somebody had a birthday, he would buy the cake. If he knew a friend liked dirty martinis, he would make a special trip to the store. "Terry threw money around like crazy," Ellie remembers.
In 2001, public records show, he took out a $94,500 mortgage from Southeast Bankers Mortgage on Lincoln Road. But he soon got into trouble with the IRS and lost his condo, Ellie says. He owed creditors thousands.
Before Terry died, he watched The Simpsons and ate a hamburger with a friend, Ellie says. After he went home, he walked to the rear of unit 509, gazed at the city lights, and jumped. His body landed on the hood of a car.
A Miami Beach Police officer found Terry still alive.
"Why didn't I die?" Terry asked. In pain, he pleaded for the officer to shoot him. He died three hours later at the hospital.
These days, the thought of Terry's fall wakes Ellie in the middle of the night. "I have a hard time going to sleep," she says with a shaky voice. "And his father cries in church every Sunday."
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
4:10 p.m., Mar Del Plata, Miami Beach
Responding to a call for a death investigation, Miami Beach Police Det. Robert Lawrence found Plácido slumped by the pool. The collision had broken his neck and knocked out his top teeth. The father of two hadn't been able to work since 1992 because of a disability. He had told psychiatrists at Mercy Hospital he was hallucinating. The voices in his head urged him: "You must die."