The couple had a son, Josh, in 1981 and then settled in Plantation. Four years later, Marissa was born. By then, he'd traded the erratic hours of emergency work for selling copiers for Minolta. He was home that December day when Susan suddenly went into labor. He delivered Marissa on the living room floor, his medical skills kicking in when the baby emerged with the umbilical cord around her neck. By the time paramedics arrived, mother and daughter were both stable. Gary told the EMTs he'd called just so they could transport the family to the hospital. The parents married the next year.

Marissa had a close call early on, after the family had moved to Sunrise. As a toddler, she wobbled into a neighbor's yard alone. A dog viciously mauled her face. Gary feared the damage — both physical and mental — would be long-term. The little girl underwent plastic surgery and eventually was unmarked by scars, either physical or emotional. "She endured a lot, but she bounced back."

The father saw a strong independent streak brewing inside his cute little girl — characteristics she was drawing from his side of the gene pool. Sometimes it flared up in mischievous ways. The family once piled into their Toyota van after running an errand. On the road, passing drivers wailed their car horns in his direction. Gary looked back to find Marissa wasn't in the car. After pulling over, he found her hanging from a ladder running up the van's back end. His anger was quickly elbowed out by appreciation. "She was fun, a handful."

In January 1996, the family was rocked by an unexpected loss. Susan had always struggled with chronic asthma, and one day an attack hit her at home. Gary rushed her to Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, where she passed away. Suddenly, Gary was a single father, responsible not only for handling two kids and a job but also for juggling his own grief.

"I remember thinking my life was going to change," he recalls.

Both children took the loss hard. Marissa became more stubborn, Gary remembers. She showed flashes of uncontrollable temper at school and at home. Eventually, Gary began dating a woman he knew from the neighborhood named Francine, whose own daughter attended Walker Elementary and Westpines Middle School with the Karp kids. Francine calmed Marissa a bit. She sometimes took the girls to gymnastics or a barn where she cared for horses. Although Marissa enjoyed the outings, she continued to act out. Gary placed her in counseling, but it made little difference.

Even today, Gary won't speak much about the bumps in his relationship with his daughter. But around 1999, Marissa, then 14, left home to live with Gary's mother, Susan, in Lauderhill. According to police records, the teenager quarreled with the 85-year-old woman in early 2001, pulling her hair and swearing at her. Marissa was charged with battery, and a judge sentenced her to probation.

After she returned to her grandma's house, a second argument took place and Marissa was charged with violating her probation. Gary says he was, in a way, relieved to see his daughter inside a courtroom. She had committed a crime, so she would suffer the punishment. Prosecutors threatened she could spend nine months to a year in lockup.

"I thought the court system was going to rescue her," Gary recalls. "I thought she was finally going to get contained, get help, and that we would all live happily ever after."

Then, in the summer of 2001, the public defender's office asked Judge Larry Seidlin to drop Marissa's charges. They noted her behavior had improved. At the shelter for troubled youths where she had moved, Marissa had received good grades and been respectful.

When the charges were dismissed in December 2001, Gary felt betrayed. The state was backing off of its responsibility to see his daughter's case through. Outside of juvenile court, Gary tried to show a game face. He'd recently started a business called the Soap and Scent Store in Coral Springs with Francine and a neighbor named Steve Poli. At work, he didn't say much about the case.

"I heard little things here and there [about Marissa], but nothing much," Poli remembers. Still, the father's general demeanor seemed off. "He was still the same Gary, but something was different."

Then, in January 2002, Marissa ran from state custody for the first time. After she was returned by police, she ran again in April. She was 17 years old.

"The system let her down," Gary says, before his voice sinks low. "And so did her father."


Because they're an easy boat ride from South Florida, the Bahamas were prime real estate for large-scale drug-smuggling operations throughout the latter half of the 20th Century.

When Colombian drug cartels rose to prominence in the '70s, the islands were a preferred launch pad. Medellín honcho Carlos Lehder famously ran his smuggling operation out of airstrips on Norman's Cay, an island south of Nassau. By the '80s, the U.S. antidrug forces began pinching off the flow from the Caribbean, particularly the Bahamas. To stay ahead of the heat, the Colombians opted for new traffic patterns through Central America and Mexico.

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10 comments
problum
problum

I felt empathy for Gary Karp until I read this: "I never really believed in the death penalty. Now, you know the saying, 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?' No, two eyes." So Gary never could imagine what a victim's family felt until he became a victim's family member?  I lose all respect for people like this, who are anti-death penalty until a member of their family is murdered and then become pro-death penalty.

MrEFQ
MrEFQ

@problum This says so much about you. You never had empathy for this man. You are pathetic.

erikdenning
erikdenning

@problum Yes, it's ridiculous for someone's views to change after experiencing something so traumatic firsthand. Life experience should never affect our world views.

problum
problum

@MrEFQ @problum Wrong - I had empathy for Karp just like I do for every victim of a crime - I just do not have respect for any person whose viewpoints on crime are only those which have happened to himself personally.  Karp is very narrow-minded, only thinking of himself when it came to the Death Penalty.  At least Karp is finally Pro-Death Penalty - but it took the death of his daughter to change his mind and make him Pro-Death Penalty.

problum
problum

@erikdenning @problum It's very narrow-minded, short-sighted and SELFISH to hold viewpoints that change only when they affect YOU PERSONALLY!  Where was his empathy for other fathers whose daughters had been killed?  He didn't have any empathy for them, just himself.  wah wah wah

problum
problum

@mcytmaccracker You are anti-death penalty because a member of your family is either in prison, on parole or on probation.  Admit it, you know it's true.  Probably STD-infected too.

mcytmaccracker
mcytmaccracker

@problum @MrEFQ I'm anti death penalty, and will dedicate all my efforts henceforth to wrongfully convict a member of your family, just to see if your views change. Because they will. Because you're an idiot.

MrEFQ
MrEFQ

@problum @MrEFQ It is pretty funny that you think you have a valid point.

Anyways, I still don't believe that you ever had empathy for him.

problum
problum

@erikdenning @problum I never stated "all of his views on life only changed when they affected him personally".  That's awfully presumptuous of you. I only stated what was in the article, how he changed from being against the death penalty to wanting to doubly-kill a convicted murderer ("two eyes for an eye") once his daughter was killed.  I have always supported the death penalty and always will without having anyone in my family killed because I have compassion for the victims, including Mr. Karp.  I just don't have respect for him.  And speaking of belligerence - You responded to me to start this flame war.

erikdenning
erikdenning

@problum@erikdenning

 @problum@erikdenning Where did you learn that ALL of his views on life only changed when they affected him personally? This is one specific, and very extreme example. If one of your views changed because of a horrific, life-altering experience, I wouldn't generalize that ALL of your beliefs had the same kind of roots, just as I wouldn't presume from a single posting on the internet that you are a self-righteous and belligerent person.  

"Where was his empathy for other fathers whose daughters had been killed?  He didn't have any empathy for them, just himself." 

Do you know this guy? Do you have transcripts confirming this or something? From where do you have such insight into his heart and mind. And don't say ESP. That would be cheating. 

You seem awfully eager to dislike this guy and you are filling in a lot of blanks with your own presumptions to do it.


 
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