From early in the relationship, Brianna's friends remember the couple fighting often and making up. "It wasn't a healthy relationship," Erica Fine remembers. "He was jealous a lot, and she knew how to push his buttons." He'd make a joke she didn't like. She'd text another guy to get back at him. One minute, they'd be screaming back and forth; the next, he'd be proposing to her, telling her he wanted her to have his baby.
In a three-year span, Brianna was arrested twice for domestic violence and twice more for DUI. After the second, she spent 30 days in jail in 2009. Fort Lauderdale police were called to Rich's apartment at least two other times during their relationship.
Her friends remember her drinking as young as eighth grade, but it didn't seem abnormal at the time. She just liked to have a good time. But now the people closest to her began to worry. Though she rarely discussed it, Brianna had begun carrying a small brown prescription bottle with the label torn off.
"I knew she was taking pills," Fine says. "I just didn't know what."
Rich was always a hard partier. Brianna's friends say that when the nightclubs closed, sometimes at 4 a.m., Rich often invited a large group of men and women to Scarlett's Cabaret, a strip club in Fort Lauderdale, or back to his place for an "after hours."
"He was really into powder and Xanax," says David Faltz, a friend of Brianna's who lived with her in 2009 and knows Rich from the nightlife scene. "Rich is the kind of guy who can get you things. He'd come up to you in the back of a club and whisper, 'Hey man, you need anything?' "
Police say he was also into the powerful prescription painkiller Roxicodone. "Lippner definitely has a reputation as a guy who likes the 'blues,' " says Detective DeJesus. Roxicodone, a small blue pill in the same family as OxyContin, is perhaps the most popular and deadly new club drug in South Florida. The heavy sedative effects are similar to those of morphine or heroin, and when mixed with alcohol or cocaine, the combination can be lethal.
Her friends say Brianna didn't mess with painkillers. "She mostly liked to drink, and she liked her Xanax," Faltz says. "Once in a while, she'd smoke weed — it wasn't her thing. She would do some blow once every blue moon if someone offered it to her."
In spring 2009, she told her friends she was leaving Rich. She said she could do better. She said his drug use — particularly his affinity for "Roxies" — had become too much for her. "He's a loser," she'd say. "And I hate, hate Roxies."
In June of last year, a few weeks after Brianna got her second DUI, she moved out of Rich's apartment by the sea and into Faltz's Fort Lauderdale townhouse.
She was excited to be single. Faltz remembers her nightly ritual: She'd text her friends and send a series of Facebook messages, trying to figure out where everyone was meeting up. She'd spend two hours getting ready: washing her hair, doing her makeup, laying out the evening's outfit, coordinating accessories.
Next, she'd preparty, sipping stiff mixed drinks from plastic cups as friends gathered. Then it was off to the club of the night. When she got home, she'd turn up the stereo to full blast and dance all over the house, occasionally putting on brief lingerie fashion shows for her friends. When she woke up, the place would be trashed — broken glass, dirty dishes, furniture knocked over — and she wouldn't remember a thing.
She dated a steady stream of mostly tall, older men, many with defined abs and thick wallets. "She could be dating four guys at the same time and make all of them feel like they were the most special thing in the world," Faltz says.
But she really fell hard for one guy in particular: a personal-injury lawyer living in Boca. He could afford her lifestyle, and he had ambition. She moved in with him and stopped talking to Rich.
"She very much was in love with the lawyer," remembers Erica Fine, "but she was constantly catching him in lies." Brianna told her friends she'd caught him cheating several times. "She was so sad," Fine says. "It really took a toll on her."
After he broke up with her, her friends noticed her drinking more, seeming more intoxicated more often. "It was like she was in a downward spiral," one friend says. "She wanted to hold on to something in her life, but everything was spinning so fast."
On Facebook, her relationship status went to "It's Complicated" and she updated her status often, going from "Hating life right now..." to "Luvin Life!!!" to the curious "?????"