Last December 4 began as a typical day in the short life of Dawnia Hope Dacosta. By 10 a.m. that Friday, the 21-year-old choir singer was at Broward Community College studying to become a pediatric nurse. That afternoon she worked at American Express as a customer service representative. After punching out at 10 p.m., she went to church and prayed until 1 a.m. Learning to heal children, working to help pay bills, and spending her Friday nights with Jesus -- that was Dawnia, say friends, who routinely use words like saintly and angelic to describe her. Saving herself for her dream husband, Dacosta hoped to find him at church. Pinned to her bedroom wall was a magazine photo of a white wedding gown. In her book bag was a catalog clipping featuring engagement rings.
But she never met her dream man. On her way home from the prayer service, her 1985 Crown Victoria ran out of gas on Interstate 95, a couple miles from the house she shared with her mom, grandfather, and sisters. Dacosta walked up the Hillsboro Boulevard exit ramp with her plastic gas container in the post-midnight darkness to a nearby Texaco station, where Johnnie Mae Harris was waiting for service at the night window. She watched Dacosta, whom she didn't know, walk up in a flowery blouse, skirt, and sneakers. Dacosta appeared to be scared, Harris would later tell detectives, and behind her was a church van with the word Hope printed in large letters on its side. Harris and another witness heard the man driving the van ask Dacosta, "How far you got to go?" Harris didn't fear for the woman's safety as she got inside. It was a church van, after all. And the black man behind the wheel was a man of God, she assumed.
Dacosta couldn't have known that sometime after getting into that van, a man would viciously take what she'd saved for her future husband. She couldn't have known that she'd soon lose a fight for her life, that she would be struck dozens of times with a blunt instrument, that her skull would be cracked open. She couldn't have known that her raped, battered, bruised, and bitten body, stripped naked and wrapped in sheets, bags, and a plastic shower curtain, would be found in an alley behind a warehouse early the following Monday morning.
Detectives with the Broward Sheriff's Office began their investigation into Dacosta's murder looking, quite literally, for "Hope." As they searched for the van, news of the terrible death spread. More than 1000 mourners packed the Faith Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church in Fort Lauderdale for Dacosta's funeral. Many in attendance believed the ghastly killing was nothing less than a declaration of war by Satan. They prayed that the hellish man who did it would be caught before he struck again.
On January 30, detectives Glenn Bukata and Kevin Kaminsky got close to answering those prayers when they spotted the "Hope" van in front of a Christian day care center in Lauderhill. After eliminating some false leads, they interviewed the van's owner, Rev. Frank Lloyd, on March 22. Lloyd, who runs Hope Outreach Ministries, said his handyman, Lucious Boyd, had used the van from December 4 to 7. The detectives knew the name, and not just because Boyd was a member of a prominent family that owns a funeral home in Fort Lauderdale. They'd been told at the start of the Dacosta investigation that local police suspected Boyd in the disappearance of another young black woman.
On March 25, a sample of Boyd's DNA came back from the crime lab as a match to the semen found on Dacosta's body. The next day, he was arrested in the back of the James C. Boyd Funeral Home on Sistrunk Boulevard. Detectives got nowhere with their suspect, who mixed denials with claims of memory lapse. Bukata finally called Boyd a "cold-blooded killer without a conscience," according to BSO records, and told him he was going to jail for raping and killing Dacosta. A shaken Boyd leaned forward in his chair and put his head down. Bukata thought he was about to confess, but instead Boyd asked, "What took you so long to catch me?" Then he sat up straight and demanded an attorney.
Boyd has been in jail ever since, awaiting trial. But the question he asked the detective still hangs in the air, unanswered. Dacosta was the last of several women suspected to have either been raped or killed by Boyd, whom some police officers refer to as "Lucifer." On the streets rumors abound: People think Boyd has killed many women and used the funeral home to dispose of their bodies. Police say they wish he'd just talk. He's a suspect in crimes from "Palm Beach on down," says Fort Lauderdale police spokesperson Mike Reed, adding that the extent of Boyd's crimes may never be known if he doesn't confess.
A trail of court files indicates that Boyd may very well have been a serial rapist who graduated to killing, or a killer who later took to raping, or one of the most falsely accused men in history. He's never been convicted of a felony, despite numerous charges. Those files also help provide answers to Boyd's question: What took so long? And the answers are nearly as chilling as the crimes he's been accused of committing.
The human destruction linked to Boyd can be measured in criminal investigations and court depositions -- and in Sharanda Morgan's dream. In it she sees 19-year-old Patrece Alston in a dim light and runs to her, eager to find out where she's been and why she disappeared without a trace. But Alston only stares back blankly. Morgan pleads with her friend to snap out of it, to come back to life. But Alston is mute, zombielike. When Morgan wakes up, she's chilled to the bone and still without answers.
On June 28, 1998, Morgan watched Alston get into a green Mazda with Boyd, who sat reclined in the passenger's seat and let Alston drive. They were going on a trip to Winter Haven, 200 miles away. Boyd returned the next day, but Alston hasn't been seen since.
Shawanna Alston's eyes tear up when she hears songs that remind her of her sister, who was nicknamed Trece. But she tries not to cry, because she wants to be strong for her mom, who hasn't been the same since her daughter disappeared. Morgan blames her friend's disappearance on crack cocaine. Boyd, she says, had a crazy look in his eyes when he was on crack. Even the other crackheads were afraid of him, she adds.
Trece Alston lived in a neighborhood near the Boyd funeral home and sometimes hung out with Boyd, but friends say they didn't date. Boyd, who is 40 years old, was too old for her, they say, and he had a girlfriend at the time named Geneva Lewis -- who'd loaned him the Mazda and expected it back. When Boyd returned the car to Lewis on June 29, he told her he'd fallen asleep on the side of the road in Winter Haven and had to be awakened by a state trooper.
Fort Lauderdale police say Boyd's account of what happened to Alston is contradictory. He told the cops that witnesses could verify that Alston had also returned, but those witnesses later denied having seen her. Reed, the police spokesman, says investigators are convinced that Boyd knows where Alston's body is located. "There is a lot of area between here and Winter Haven," he adds. "It's the longest, most boring ride of your life. You could be out there forever and not find it."
Just a couple weeks after Alston disappeared, her mother, Shirley Gaines, took matters into her own hands. Accompanied by others she confronted Boyd at his Pompano Beach apartment, asking, "Where is my daughter?" Boyd looked at the ground and didn't say a word, she recalls. Then he balled up his fists. Even though Boyd is six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds, she wasn't scared. "He had a wildish look to him," she says. "His nostrils were flared. He had kind of a trapped-animal look. Like he couldn't get away. His skin had this ashen look to it."
But he didn't say a word.
Bertha Mae Floyd says she feels relatively fortunate when she thinks of what Gaines is going through. Her daughter, Melissa Floyd, was murdered too, but at least Melissa's stabbed, naked body was found -- in some high grass near a guardrail on I95 in Palm Beach County. It looked as if somebody had shoved Melissa Floyd's corpse out of a car. The investigation, says Palm Beach County Sheriff's Det. Wayne Robinson, has been focused on Lucious Boyd for months, though there is no physical evidence tying him to the crime.
Twenty-four-year-old Melissa Floyd was a crack addict who lived on the streets. Her body was found on August 13, 1997, but she wasn't identified until four months later. "As soon as the identification became known, the area around the [Boyd] funeral home became a very suspect area," Robinson says. The reasons: Floyd was known to smoke crack near the funeral home, and her ID card was discovered by Boyd family members on funeral home grounds a few weeks after her body was found. "I was shocked when her ID showed up at the funeral home," says Bertha Floyd. "Nobody ever had her ID but her." At the same time, Bertha Floyd was hearing about Boyd's drug use, alleged crimes, and the likelihood that he knew her daughter. "I always thought Lucious Boyd had something to do with my daughter's death," she says.
While the disappearance of Alston and Floyd's murder remain mysteries, Boyd has been charged with several violent crimes over the past decade. The court cases established his incredible slipperiness when it comes to prosecution, even when he's apparently all but caught in the act. And they provide terrible insight into what Dawnia Hope Dacosta may have gone through during her last hours.
Figuratively speaking, Lucious Boyd was a reputed lady killer long before he was accused of actually murdering someone. One of his old girlfriends describes him with only one word: charmer. Another calls him a "professional flirt." His womanizing, like his alleged crimes, is well documented in court files: He's been married twice, has at least eight children, and has been sued by four women for child support.
Edna Birgs, the mother of two of Boyd's children, remembers first meeting him in the late '70s at the funeral home, where Boyd, as a mortician's helper, did everything from greet mourners to help embalm corpses and sweep the floors. It was a successful family business, stretching over 95 years and three generations and employing all 11 Boyd children at one time or another. Boyd's position in the community only enhanced his appeal, Birgs says.
"He was a young guy, good-looking, and all the women were at him," she recalls. "He had no problems with women. He was very sweet, and he knew how to treat them."
He also knew how to cheat on them, she says. After she fell in love with Boyd, Birgs realized he would never settle down. In 1983 she sued Boyd for child support. "He was a spoiled brat with no responsibility," she says. "He didn't have to worry about anything, because his family didn't push him to take care of himself or his children."
Despite her problems with Boyd, Birgs never ceased being charmed by him; he even made her laugh when they were battling in court. When he was accused of murdering Dacosta, she was shocked. How could the playboy she knew so well turn into a killer? Birgs actually has some ideas. One is that Boyd was getting older and possibly "couldn't get women like he did back in the day," she says. So he began taking from young women what he could no longer win. Another notion is that the 1996 death of his father, James C. Boyd, helped push him over the edge. "Lucious' dreams were his father's dreams," Birgs says. "He always wanted to follow his father's footsteps."
But Boyd didn't even come close to filling his father's shoes. According to court depositions, his own mother had fired him once because he missed work, and he was often so broke he could no longer afford his own apartment, which meant he had to stay at the family's large house in the historic district of Plantation. Until he was arrested, he was performing menial work as a handyman for Reverend Lloyd.
He was also unpredictable, his sister Irma said in a 1997 deposition. "There are spells when we don't see him at all," she explained, "and then there are other times he may come around every day."
The wealth, prestige, power, and solid family life of his father eluded him. Instead he was a deadbeat dad with a cocaine problem. His family, which stands behind him and says he's been falsely accused, concedes he had an ongoing drug problem, but his oldest brother, Walter Boyd, says the idea that his brother was spoiled is ludicrous. "We grew up in discipline," he insists. "In our house it was, 'Yes sir, yes ma'am, no sir, no ma'am.'"
Even when Lucious Boyd was relatively young and his father was still alive, he displayed a proclivity for extreme violence. In 1990 he choked his second wife, Julie McCormick, to the point of unconsciousness after she'd threatened to leave him for cheating on her, according to court records. A felony charge of aggravated battery was later reduced to a misdemeanor charge, and Boyd got slapped with probation.
Two years later Boyd was accused of raping a girl during a date celebrating her 18th birthday. Police spokesperson Reed says no charge was filed in that case because the victim later declined to prosecute. "Unfortunately that happens quite a bit," Reed says. "With no victim, there's no crime."
In 1993 Boyd got his first known taste of blood when he stabbed a man to death on a dark Fort Lauderdale street. He killed Roderick Bullard, the brother of one of Boyd's girlfriends, with a kitchen knife during an argument over an automobile. Boyd told police that Bullard had hit him and that he "just lost it." He admitted that Bullard had no weapon and never threatened him. During the trial Boyd's defense attorneys turned the tables on Bullard, playing up the fact that he had cocaine in his bloodstream. The jury called Boyd's action self-defense and acquitted him, making Bullard the first of many people involved with Boyd who would be portrayed in court as someone who was asking for what he or she got.
Lori Sanders (not her real name) was another. Sanders, who was two years Boyd's junior and a close friend of one of his sisters, spent much of her adult life far away from Fort Lauderdale on Army bases, working counterintelligence and competing around the world as a national tae kwon do champion. On a visit to Fort Lauderdale from Maryland in the spring of 1997, she stopped by the Boyd house and on a whim went dancing with Lucious at the Baja Beach Club in Fort Lauderdale. Sanders refused to be interviewed for this story and asked that her real name not be used. She did, however, tell her side of the story in court.
At the club, she said, she repeatedly had to thwart Boyd's sexual advances. After they left the club, he drove Sanders in her rental car to Fort Lauderdale beach, where she said he cajoled her to "feel the sand in her toes." He seemed expansive, talking about life, how he still had ambitions and wanted to buy a car and travel the country. She finally talked him into leaving the beach, and he drove them back to the Boyd family house, where he parked the car in the large back yard. Sanders reported that, after the car was turned off, Boyd went straight for her throat, strangling her until she passed out. When she came to, he demanded sex. She refused, and he "jabbed" at her throat, forcing her into submission. After less than a minute of oral sex, Boyd got on top of her, Sanders said, and held her throat as he raped her, telling her to shut up and repeating, "You don't know who you're messing with."
"He would hold my throat and, like, watch me not breathe," Sanders said in deposition. "And I was just looking up, like, 'What's going on?' And I started counting the seconds I wasn't breathing . I just was like, 'I can't believe this is how I am going to die.'"
When it was over, he let her go on the condition that she not say a word to anyone about what had happened, Sanders said. She consented but then went straight to the cops, thinking, "He's going to be in jail." Boyd was indeed jailed that morning on rape charges. But he was soon out on bond, and he was acquitted of the rape nearly two years later, on February 23, 1999, a month before he was arrested for Dacosta's murder. At the trial, defense attorney Robert Buschel intimated that Sanders was jealous of Boyd's other women and that she wanted some of the Boyd family fortune. He pointed out that, on the night of the alleged attack, she wasn't wearing panties under her stockings and had drunk alcohol. He then claimed that Sanders had inflicted the severe strangulation injuries on her own neck. Buschel also argued that, as a martial arts expert, Sanders could have easily fought Boyd off.
What didn't seem to hold much weight with the jury was the fact that Sanders had had to forgo the Olympics in 1992 after she blew out her knee, which still was held together with three steel pins. Or that Plantation police said she seemed perfectly sober only moments after the alleged attack. Or that medical experts didn't believe that the injuries -- her neck was terribly bruised, and she had problems swallowing and breathing for weeks -- could have been selfinflicted.
Less than three months after Sanders went to police, Boyd struck again, according to another woman. But this time it was Boyd who didn't know whom he was messing with.
Michelle Galloway's eyes well up with tears as she recounts how her mother told her over the phone last March that Lucious Boyd had been arrested in connection with Dawnia Dacosta's murder.
"Lucious Boyd did it again," her mother told her, and Galloway broke down, crying. She had known it would happen again. She knew that Boyd's "job" was to rape and kill women. Dacosta, she thought, was another trusting woman, not as fortunate as she was.
Galloway consented to talk to New Times and use her real name because she wants the public to know her story. She hopes that by telling it she might prevent what happened to her from happening to someone else. And it's not Boyd she's worried about anymore. It's the BSO. According to Galloway, this is what happened:
It was a hot summer day, August 13, 1997. After work at Lens Express, Galloway walked briskly down Hillsboro Boulevard, the same road Dacosta would later walk with her gas container. It was hot, and Galloway was sweating under her clean white jumpsuit. A white-and-blue truck with an orange bubble light on top pulled up beside her. Galloway, who was 22 years old at the time, thought the smiling, clean-cut man inside was a security guard, and he seemed nice enough. So she got inside when he asked if she needed help. She told him she had to get to the Tri-Rail station, where she would take a bus to Women in Distress, a shelter for abused women in Fort Lauderdale where she stayed. Instead of going to Tri-Rail, the man turned onto I95.
"This isn't Tri-Rail," Galloway said.
"I know. Save your money. I'm going the same direction. I know where you're going."
Then he exited I95 at Oakland Park Boulevard.
"I don't stay off Oakland Park," Galloway told him.
He said he knew where the shelter was and that he would get her there. The sun had gone down, and she couldn't read the street signs. He turned down various streets, wound around corners. While stopped at a red light, he leaned toward her. Then she felt the serrated edge of a kitchen knife on the back of her neck.
"Shut up and don't say nothing," he told her casually. His voice didn't even change, didn't become harsh. It struck Galloway that this was probably routine for him, that putting a knife to a woman's throat was no big deal. It was as if he were punching in at work.
He drove to a dirt road by Oswald Park, but she didn't know where she was. They weren't far from tennis courts. She could hear the thwop of rackets hitting balls but couldn't see the players because of a line of high bushes.
"Give me some head," he said, the knife still at her neck.
Galloway tried to say anything to make him change his mind. She nervously told him he shouldn't do this to her because they were both black, that they were supposed to be like brother and sister. But he unzipped his pants and, as he kept the knife at her throat, wedged her head between the steering wheel and his lap. While she did as she was ordered, he lit up a "geek joint" -- a homemade cigarette filled with cocaine -- and smoked.
All Galloway could think about was surviving. And she was good at it. She'd survived an abusive mother, escaping to live with her father in Philadelphia, only to have him introduce her to crack cocaine at the age of 11. He'd taken the abuse to a new level, making Michelle strip naked and slashing her with a metal ruler. At age 12, while in rehab for crack addiction, she was taken into custody by the State of Pennsylvania because of the scars on her buttocks. A year later she was back with her mother in Broward County, where she was raped by her 16-year-old first cousin and gave birth to his baby. Then she became an alcoholic, and when she was 16, she shot her boyfriend with his gun after she caught him cheating on her. The boyfriend survived, and she spent three years in prison. By the time Boyd kidnapped her, she was living in the Women in Distress shelter and seemed to be turning her life around. She was off drugs, and a Lens Express manager later testified in court that she was a model employee.
Galloway tells her daunting life story with little emotion until she gets to Boyd. Then the tears start rolling down her cheeks. As he smoked the cocaine, she says, an ash fell on her back. It didn't really burn her, but she saw her chance and leapt frantically.
"I'm on fire! I'm on fire!" she yelled. Then she pretended that the ash was burning the floor of the truck. "Did you see it? Look!"
When Boyd looked down, she went for the knife. He grabbed her face, and she bit his hand as hard as she could, drawing blood and loosening the knife from his grip. She took it and stabbed at him, and they spilled out of the truck. Outside he chased her around the truck as she screamed for help and fended him off with the knife. After several minutes the tennis players finally heard her screams and called 911. When a BSO deputy arrived, Galloway was crying hysterically -- but she was alive. Like Sanders before her, she assumed her attacker was about to go to jail for a long time.
"This man just tried to rape me!" she told the deputy.
According to Galloway, the deputy, Dennis Additon, didn't bother with an introduction.
"Shut up and sit down!" he said sternly. Then he put the knife, which had a white handle and a broken tip, on his patrol car and walked over to Boyd, who was sitting quietly on the back bumper of the truck, which was owned by the Boyd funeral home. He calmly told Additon that Galloway was a prostitute who'd pulled a knife on him after he told her he didn't have $20 to pay her for sex.
"What's the matter?" the deputy asked her. "You mad because he didn't have any money?"
Galloway told the deputy she wasn't a prostitute, that she'd just gotten off work, that Boyd had driven her from Deerfield Beach, and that she only wanted to get to the shelter.
"You expect me to believe that a small person like you overpowered this big man and took the knife away from him?" Additon asked her. "If anybody goes to jail, it would be you because you don't have one mark on you. He's got all these cuts on him. I suggest you get to Women in Distress before we take you to jail."
Still crying, Galloway asked if he could at least point her toward the shelter. She still didn't know where she was. He pointed and said, "Two miles that way."
She walked there alone in the dark. Boyd, meanwhile, was allowed to leave. Additon wrote no report, and, incredibly, he lost the knife. He also didn't check Boyd's criminal history, which is routine in rape complaints, or he would have learned that Boyd had been charged in the Sanders rape case. Additon refused to comment on the matter, saying only that "policy is what I went by" and that it isn't true that he didn't listen to Galloway's complaint. The BSO, however, suspended Additon for three days without pay after finding that he'd failed to conduct a proper investigation, lost valuable evidence, disbelieved a crime victim, and didn't give Galloway a ride to the shelter.
Galloway later went to a BSO detective, who believed her story and levied charges of armed kidnapping, aggravated assault, and rape against Boyd. But the case was already ruined. Defense attorney Buschel -- who discredited Galloway by bringing up the shooting of her boyfriend -- says Additon's disbelief of Galloway was pivotal in getting Boyd acquitted.
Galloway says she hopes Boyd gets the electric chair. "He's got a sickness that needs to be put to sleep," she says. But she saves most of her animosity for Additon, who she believes should spend the rest of his life in jail.
"I don't know how he can live with himself," she says, tears streaming down her cheeks. "How can they tell [Dacosta's] parents that they let him go and that's why their daughter is gone. How? For once I was on their side, trying to help them get a bad guy. And they let me down. They let the community down. They let [Boyd] back on the street to do his job. They allowed that man to kill again."
Galloway tells her story in the cafeteria of the large office park in which she now works in Palm Beach County. She says she's finally getting past the trauma of the rape, which caused her to lose her job and go back on cocaine. She completed rehab last year and now has a steady job and recently won custody of her daughter, whom she calls her "miracle." God must have been on her side the day she fought Boyd, Galloway says. God must have wanted her to be there for her daughter. She just wishes Additon would have been on her side, too.
What Galloway doesn't know is that the stabbed body of Melissa Floyd was found on the same day she was allegedly attacked by Boyd. Detective Robinson wasn't aware of this strange coincidence either. When told about it by a reporter, he immediately made plans to interview Galloway. But the knife remains lost, so the truth may never be known.
When it comes to Dacosta's murder, however, detectives and prosecutors claim they know the truth. And they are confident Boyd won't slip away from justice again.
"Maybe you let me down," he told Boyd, according to BSO reports.
"You know I wouldn't hurt you," Boyd replied.
Lloyd had no idea just how badly his employee had let him down. When he realized a torque wrench and a power saw were missing from the van, Floyd didn't know that detectives would later determine that the tools were probably used to stab and bludgeon Dacosta to death. When the pastor discovered his purple nylon laundry bag had disappeared, he had no idea that detectives would conclude that it had been wrapped around Dacosta's corpse.
Lloyd once had high hopes for Boyd. He was trying to interest him in joining the ministry. He'd say, "Lucious, you know you need to be a preacher rather than being in the street." At the funeral home, Boyd sometimes gave eulogies and could "electrify" the mourners with his rousing speeches, which were loaded with quotes from Scriptures.
"I believe he's one that's runnin' from the ministry," Lloyd told Detective Bukata.
The reverend is a key witness against Boyd, as is Boyd's former girlfriend, Geneva Lewis (who also has two children by him). After Boyd was arrested, detectives searched his apartment -- which is located just 200 yards from the ill-fated Texaco station -- and recovered blood that was later found to be Dacosta's. Two sheets that had been wrapped around the victim's body were identified by Lewis as having disappeared from the apartment. And at about the same time the murder occurred, Lewis' queen-size bed vanished from the apartment, she told the BSO. Boyd, she added, wouldn't tell her what he'd done with it.
BSO Capt. Tony Fantigrassi says the Dacosta investigation is airtight. Boyd's public defender, William Laswell, concedes he's facing an "uphill battle." With Dacosta, Boyd may have finally picked a victim who is beyond reproach. Laswell says he's investigated Dacosta's background and found her to be an angel. "They don't make people like that anymore," he says with resignation. "Work, school, family, church, and that's it. I've sent a note down to the investigators in our office that basically said, 'This can't be true, is it? She's this good a girl?' But from everybody I've talked to, it's true."
If Boyd is convicted in the Dacosta case, he could be sentenced to death. Before he was sent to jail, he accused the BSO of working for the Ku Klux Klan and claimed he was being set up in an attempt to discredit his family.
When a New Times reporter recently paid him a surprise visit, Boyd politely refused to answer questions. He was sitting behind thick jailhouse glass and holding an old, black phone receiver, and his dark eyes looked expectant, almost fearful.
"I would love to talk to you, and in the future I will sit down with the media and talk about all of this," he said slowly, with a distinguished-sounding Southern accent. "But at this time, it would not be wise for me to do so."
After every question -- Do you know where Patrece Alston is? Do you know Melissa Floyd? Why are you constantly being accused of crimes? -- Boyd patiently repeated: "You will have to talk to my attorney."
He showed no emotion at all, except when he was asked how the jail food tasted. Once again, he said, "You will have to talk to my attorney." When the reporter burst out laughing, Boyd smiled, his pencil-thin mustache rising and his deeply lined mouth breaking from its previously staid fixture. But it was a mimic smile, a smile with no heart behind it, and it went away as quickly as it had appeared. The interview ended when it became clear that Boyd wasn't going to answer any question at all.
He still isn't talking.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Broward / Palm Beach, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.