Stanley was also "the village ram," or ladies' man, Wilson says. Over the course of many decades, he had at least 19 children with several much younger women. Ishmael was the oldest son; Shawn the youngest.

LaBeet asked Allah for forgiveness but wasn't really torn up about taking another man's life.

Ishmael had an even harder edge than his father. But it was Vietnam that made the young man truly violent. "He had a bad feeling about going over to Vietnam and killing a bunch of people who looked like him," Wilson says. "One day he fired into a hut only to realize he had just put a .50-caliber machine gun round through a pregnant woman." Ishmael was wounded in the war but ordered to return after he recovered. He refused, punching a commanding officer and earning himself several months in the clink — where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Ishmael Ali.

By the time Ishmael returned to Saint Croix in 1972, he and the island had changed. Whites had begun buying up businesses. There were few opportunities for native-born Cruzans, let alone a drunk and disorderly Vietnam vet. Whether spurred by financial desperation or racial rage, Ishmael plotted the assault on Fountain Valley. He mowed down the eight men and women — all but one of whom were white — and led the band of assassins into the jungle afterward.

Illustration by Joseph Laney

They were quickly caught, and the trial soon transfixed the entire United States. Ishmael's supporters surrounded the courthouse with fists raised in salute. It didn't help. When a judge sentenced Ishmael and his codefendants to eight life terms, LaBeet spat on the floor three times and was led away kicking and screaming.

Chris Reyka likely saw the spectacle on TV in Lauderhill. He was a student at Piper High School, already plotting to sign up for the Marines. His mother would die unexpectedly just a few years later, and his father, an Air Force pilot, struggled to raise Chris and his seven siblings on his own.

Unlike Ishmael LaBeet, Reyka never went to Vietnam. But when he left the service, he, too, had a hard time finding work. Reyka took a job mowing lawns. He cut grass with the same careful precision he had used to clean his rifle. He married Kim, a pretty Sears cashier who would later work for the IRS, and in 1984 she became pregnant with their first child.

By then, Ishmael LaBeet had spent a decade appealing his conviction. On New Year's Eve 1984, he and three U.S. marshals boarded a packed flight from Saint Croix to New York so he could be transferred to yet another prison. Once the plane was in the air, Ishmael said he felt sick. He roiled in his seat, complaining of stomach pains. Finally, the marshals uncuffed him and allowed him to use the lavatory. When Ishmael emerged moments later, he was holding a pistol.

He ordered the plane to turn around. When it touched down two hours later in Havana, the convicted murderer ambled down the stairs and onto the tarmac. He hasn't been heard of since.

It was an incredible escape: the last chapter in Ishmael LaBeet's already legendary and lawless life. But the daring disappearing act would prove difficult to duplicate decades later for Ishmael's youngest brother, Shawn.

He, too, would despise authority, lash out, and then vanish. But instead of staying hidden, Shawn LaBeet would reinvent himself and go on a rampage. A rampage authorities say would cost Sgt. Chris Reyka and another police officer their lives.


Shawn LaBeet grew up in the same slumping slat-board house as his oldest brother, yet he seemed a very different child. At least at first.

Ishmael had hijacked American Airlines Flight 626 to Cuba when Shawn was just 2 years old. But stories of Ishmael's crimes swirled around Shawn like the easterly trade winds. Though strangely quiet, he wasn't deaf.

"He was a sweet kid," remembers Wilson, who grew up nearby. "We were invited over to their house for dinner once. My wife took a liking to him. She brought him some pastels because he was always drawing.

"That was all I remember of him," Wilson says, "until I read about his death."

Between his quiet childhood and emphatic end lie the secrets of Shawn LaBeet. But interviews and court records partially unwrap the enigma. After moving to the mainland United States, the quiet kid became obsessed with guns and violent videogames. He also developed a grudge against cops. The combination quickly got him into trouble, leading to a life on the run and a bloody legacy to rival his infamous older brother's.

Shawn LaBeet followed his older siblings to South Florida sometime in the mid-'90s. His mother, Elizabeth, found a job at a Publix warehouse in Deerfield Beach. Shawn spent his days at Northeast, a shabby, low-slung high school in Oakland Park.

Shawn had light-brown skin, wide-set eyes, and wispy facial hair. He would have been handsome if not for his nose, which was bulbous and slightly crooked. At Northeast, Shawn met a sallow Italian-American girl named Renee D'Angelo. The two began to date.

"He was great in school," says his sister Lesley Johnson. She says her youngest brother attended private academies on the islands and spent hours reading old encyclopedias. His life in South Florida was no different. Shawn graduated from Northeast when he was just 16 with a 4.0 GPA, Johnson says.

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6 comments
pattilynn7177
pattilynn7177

I have to disagree with Perkins.  First, Curcio has NO axe to grind.  He has always been meticulous.  If he says that it'sLaBeet, I believe him.  Curcio has never granndstanded over any of the cases that he has been involved in solving.  Sgt. Reyka would have approved of his methods, investigation, and conclusions.  This story was very well done, and I appreciate the thoroughness.

perkins1085
perkins1085

This is simply a case of BSO grasping at straws to bring closure to open murder case.  They can assume Lebeet is their suspect but they'll never know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he really is since dead men can't tell tales. 

perkins1085
perkins1085

@pattilynn7177  


This smells of Scott Israel & his quest to make a name for himself.  It sounds like Curico had LaBeet figured for this crime years ago--Why didn't BSO come forward with this years ago?


Its not a coincidence that the newly elected super sheriff solves a 7yr open murder case within his first year of office.  

pattilynn7177
pattilynn7177

@perkins1085 @pattilynn7177  


Mr. Perkins, I believe that John Curcio was working on it even when Al Lamberti was sheriff.  I don't believe that your premise, "making a name for himself," is true, I certainbly hope not.  No law enforcement officer that I've ever worked with, or known, would put politics above anything, when it comes to solving the murder of a fellow law enforcement officer.  John Curcio would not.

 
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