But his mother would later tell detectives that Shawn's intelligence hid a dark side. He had been "a problem child," she said, "and had anger issues his entire life."

"I can't tell you what was in his mind when it was happening. That's between him and the man above."

"He was quiet, but if you fucked with him, you'd find yourself in a bad spot," says nephew Jaleel Torres. The two grew up together, spearfishing and skateboarding in the islands. But Torres noticed a change in his uncle once they moved to the United States. "Here, it was real hateful," he says. "There was a lot of racism, and people use all these crazy words, like 'cracker,' 'nigger,' 'Chink.' "

Nor did Shawn's island antics fly well with authorities in South Florida. Torres says his uncle was arrested several times as a minor — records are sealed — and was locked up. "He was foaming at the mouth and shit," Torres says. "I don't know if he was claustrophobic or what the hell it was. But when he came out of there, he said, 'I'll never go to jail again.' "

Illustration by Joseph Laney
Illustration by Joseph Laney

From then on, Shawn held a grudge against those who had put him behind bars. "He hated cops. Just hated them. Period," Torres says. "He didn't believe in another man taking his freedom. And if he did, it was worth killing him over."

Shawn also began showing a sick fascination with violence. He and Torres would play bloody videogames such as Grand Theft Auto and Samurai Showdown like millions of other young men. But for uncle and nephew — only a few years apart — the games began bleeding into reality.

One autumn, Shawn bought Torres an air rifle. Then he encouraged his nephew to start shooting the squirrels and birds behind his house. When the pile of dead animals began to stink, Shawn scooped them into a bag and left them on a neighbor's doorstep for Halloween.

Some of their pranks were more serious. Torres says his uncle took him to an abandoned house and pulled out a can of gasoline. They splashed the place, lit a match, and watched it burn. "It was awesome," Torres recalls. Another time, Shawn recruited his nephew to help him sell drugs at Ultra Music Festival.

Shawn's relationship with Renee only made him more volatile. She was jealous and controlling, Torres says, and tried to keep Shawn from the rest of his family. That isolation only grew worse when D'Angelo gave birth to their first daughter, Shawna, in 2000. The kid would grow up in a chaotic household.

Shawna was barely 2 years old when her father exploded with anger. It was April Fool's Day 2002, and Shawn and Renee were drinking 151 rum and Coke with her cousin at the couple's house in North Lauderdale. They sat on the patio trading swigs, and Shawn decided to spark up. But when he went inside to pinch some pot off the brick in his freezer, it was missing. He burst out of the house with a 12-gauge shotgun, accusing the cousin of stealing his stash.

Shawn put the barrel to his friend's chest and demanded the dope, according to a police report. But the cousin swatted the gun aside. As the two wrestled for the weapon, it went off. D'Angelo howled in pain as the blast raked across her left thigh.

As she limped inside to grab a towel to stop the bleeding, her boyfriend and her cousin spun insanely in the front yard. The shotgun went off again, spraying buckshot into the night. Finally, Shawn dropped the shotgun, and the men sprinted in different directions.

D'Angelo called 911. But by the time police and paramedics arrived, Shawn and the shotgun were gone. Despite the box of shotgun shells on her bed and the wound with an eight-inch spread, D'Angelo claimed she had been stabbed. Then she clammed up.

Shawn was the only suspect, but cops couldn't find him. Somehow, he had slipped back to the islands. And there, in one of the shops lining the narrow streets of Charlotte Amalie in Saint Thomas, he bought himself a new identity.


Six months after shooting his girlfriend, Shawn LaBeet returned to South Florida a different man — at least on paper. While cops searched for LaBeet, he had all the documentation required to reinvent himself as Kevin Wehner: a 30-year-old Jacksonville construction worker.

The new identity not only allowed him to avoid arrest but also enabled him to amass an arsenal he would ultimately use to wage war on police.

At first, LaBeet hid in Panama for several months before returning to his girlfriend and daughter, Torres says. The couple married in secret and moved to a dusty subdivision in Naranja to avoid detection. But there, LaBeet was quickly back to his old ways. That meant drugs, dogs, guns, and videogames.

LaBeet gradually gave up selling drugs, Torres says, but only because he found safer products to sling: dogs and guns. Using the names "Kevin Wehner" and "Kevin Smith," LaBeet set up websites advertising bulldogs for sale. When cops would search his home after his death, they would find ­entire rooms turned into makeshift kennels. Cages filled the hallways and backyard.

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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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