To see more photos of Casey DiStefano, click here.
To see more photos of Brianna Negron, click here.
From the top floors of the White Egret, a luxury condo building in north Fort Lauderdale, you can look out over A1A, over the palm trees and the sunbathers, over the foamy waves crashing on the beach — you can see all the way to the thin line on the horizon where the sparkling blue ocean meets the sky.
It was in this building, in apartment 12F, that 20-year-old Casey DiStefano spent her last night alive.
In high school in Union, New Jersey, she was a cheerleader, asked to prom by at least four boys. Like so many girls, Casey liked listening to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. She liked shopping and watching MTV and riding horses. She was energetic and petite, with smooth, sun-kissed skin; flowing, platinum-blond hair; a wide, bright smile; and dark-brown eyes as deep as the ocean outside her window.
But when paramedics arrived at the apartment just before 8 a.m. on May 27 of this year, they found Casey lying on the floor, still and unresponsive. Her skin was pale. Her lips were an unsettling shade of blue. She wasn't breathing.
The EMTs wrapped her in blankets, took her on a stretcher to the ambulance, and rushed her three and a half miles north to Holy Cross Hospital, performing CPR on the way. In the emergency room, doctors and nurses took over the efforts to resuscitate. But nothing worked. At 8:12 a.m., they pronounced Casey Marie DiStefano dead.
Fort Lauderdale police officers showed up at the White Egret not long after the ambulance left. They found Casey's boyfriend, 38-year-old Richard Lippner, calmly mopping the bathroom floor. The small apartment was a cluttered mess, with rotting food and dirty dishes on every countertop and trash stacked high against the bright-yellow walls.
"The place was a total pigsty," remembers lead detective William DeJesus. "Really disgusting."
Rich told the police that he had awakened that morning to Casey calling his name. He found her in the bathroom, vomiting violently. She was struggling to breathe. Then, he said, she collapsed. He dialed 911.
There was no crying or panicked screaming as the boyfriend told his story. He said Casey had a history of seizures. He said he'd tried performing CPR on her before calling an ambulance. "I'm not sure what's wrong with her," he told the investigators in his apartment. "We went to bed around midnight and she was fine."
"Was she on any kind of medications?" the detective asked. "Any kind of drugs?"
"She takes a multivitamin," the boyfriend said. "That's all I know of."
Thinking back on the conversation, the detective says that what he found most disturbing was how calm and collected Rich seemed.
"He was completely unemotional," DeJesus says. "It was like this was business as usual."
When word of Casey's death reached New Jersey, her family and friends were stunned. It felt like a bad dream. She couldn't be dead. Not Casey. She'd moved down to Miami less than a year earlier with her best friend, hoping to start a modeling career. She spoke to both her mother and stepmother the night before she died, and she seemed so normal.
But if news of her passing seemed like a nightmare, what came next seemed like a twist straight out of CSI: Miami: Casey was not the first girl to die in that apartment. In fact, this was the second time this had happened in four months.
The women had a lot in common too: Both were young, beautiful, bottle blonds, active in the local nightlife scene. Both had an eye for designer purses and a taste for tony restaurants. Both died under similar circumstances, with similar chemical combinations found in their bodies. And both girls dated Richard Lippner.
His attorney says this is all a big coincidence. But friends and family members of both girls, and now the Fort Lauderdale police, think it might be something much more sinister.
Brianna Negron exuded an incredible confidence. She would invite a girlfriend or two out for drinks at her favorite bar, Blue Martini, and bet them that before they left, she'd have a guy offering to pay the tab. They'd order drinks and food — and more drinks, often racking up a bill totaling hundreds of dollars. And by the end of the night, sure enough, she always had some flirtatious stranger willing to throw down his credit card for her entire group.
Lots of older men asked Brianna out: a lawyer, a doctor, more than one club manager. In early 2007, not long after her 20th birthday, Brianna met Rich.
For their first date, they went to a bar on the water, sat outside beneath the glowing space heaters, and drank for hours. Bright-eyed and grinning coyly, Brianna leaned on the wooden bar, sipping a yellow drink from a clear plastic cup. She wore a tight red top with a deep neckline that accentuated her surgically enhanced chest. Her blond hair rested softly on her shoulders, and her blue eyes twinkled in the light of a candle flickering nearby. Rich, 15 years her senior, wore a crisp, white designer shirt unbuttoned to his sternum and a set of silver cuff links. It was an unusually chilly evening in early 2007. In a photo from that night, she's smiling uncomfortably as Rich puts both arms around her, interlocking his fingers behind her back.