By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
The evening of September 25, 2011, Laz's hands shook as he unlocked the door to a detached studio at his one-acre compound in Plantation. For the past month, Laz's personal assistant, Marcus Nathaniel Trotman, had been crashing there until he could find a place of his own.
Laz had offered him a place to stay after the 26-year-old aspiring rapper was arrested for hurling a cell phone at his wife's head and opening a gash that required stitches. When she obtained a restraining order to force him out of their townhouse in Sunrise, Laz gave Trotman the benefit of the doubt. He'd known Trotman for years, after all, mentoring him as a rapper and even serving as best man at his April 2010 wedding to his wife, Danielle Lorenzo. Trotman was volatile but talented, and Laz thought he could groom him and eventually sign him to his label.
Before leaving for California the week before, Laz had offered Trotman some advice: Accept Lorenzo's decision to end their relationship. It was over.
"Marcus was like a member of my family," Laz says. "I was his Cuban dad."
So when Laz landed in Miami and flipped on his radio, he almost swerved off the road: Trotman had shot and killed his estranged wife, the reporter announced, plus her mom, Linda Scudera, before killing himself.
Laz sped home and went straight to the room where Trotman had been staying. He found scraps of paper near the bed. Laz's face went pale as he read verses contemplating suicide; then he ran to his private study around the corner.
His gun safe was wide open. As Laz pulled out a small black case, his heart pounded like an 808 bass drum. His fully loaded Walther PPK .380-caliber pistol was gone.
"If you would have bet me beforehand that something like that was going to happen with Marcus, I would have lost money," Laz says. "I would have said, 'Hell no. No way.' "
That horrific crime is one of several dark moments that belie Laz's radio party-boy image. His rise to the top has been marked by some eye-popping risks that make it remarkable how clean the DJ's record has remained.
"Laz is one of the most likable guys in radio," says Mike Reyes, a former producer for SBS-owned El Zol 95.7. "He's kept his nose clean. You've never read about him getting busted for driving under the influence or being sent to rehab for drug addiction."
But Laz is no Boy Scout either. He admits he smoked weed and dropped MDMA, or Ecstasy, during his days as a club DJ. "When I was 27 or 28, I did Ecstasy for about a six-week period," Laz says. "Those six weeks were awesome until I got the next batch."
After taking four pills, Laz recalls, he slept for about an hour and woke up with unbearable chest pain. He drove himself to Memorial Regional Hospital's emergency room. "I was so embarrassed I lied, saying someone spiked my drink," he says. "The doctors told me I was lucky my heart didn't explode. I never did Ecstasy again."
At the same time, Laz's marriage to Desiree was falling apart. They'd gotten married too young, and the relationship had been crumbling for years.
"I was booking gigs just to get out of the house because I was having so many problems with my wife," Laz says. During one of his DJ parties in Tallahassee, he met a young woman named Joette, who'd grown up in the same Hollywood neighborhood as he had.
Three months later, she called into Power 96. After taking her out to dinner that evening, Laz never looked back. He divorced Desiree (who declined an interview with New Times) in December 1999. (Attempts to review the couple's divorce file were unsuccessful — the Broward County Clerk of Court's office could not locate the 13-year-old documents.)
Two years later, Laz married Joette. They've been together since and have two children. In 2006, they paid $990,000 for the Plantation estate. He also owns a home in Pembroke Pines that he purchased in 2001 for $210,000 and a 42-foot sportfishing boat, which is docked at his Key Largo vacation home. "I love the ocean," Laz says. "It's where I disconnect from the world."
His love of boating also compelled him to take one of the craziest gambles of his life. On a summer night in 2008, thieves broke into his Key Largo pad to get the keys to a 33-foot fishing boat he owned. They didn't know that Laz had installed a state-of-the-art tracking device on it after eight boats in his neighborhood had been stolen.
When he went to the cops, they told him there was nothing they could do unless the boat was in American waters. The Coast Guard also blew him off. "Every time the boat was on the move, I'd get an alert," Laz says.
So he tracked the boat himself, watching on his computer as it docked in Pinar del Río, Cuba, and then motored back out into the Gulf. "Once that boat made a beeline for Mexico, I jumped on the next plane," he recalls.
Laz came to believe that the thieves were human traffickers smuggling Cubans to Cancún on his boat. So he flew to the resort town with wads of cash in his pocket. He arrived at the docks just as the two smugglers were tying his boat to a moor.