“There was a second personality that was evident,” he added. “But just because somebody is a little off doesn’t mean they’re going to go and shoot somebody. I never would have believed that he was capable of something so horrible.”
Vargas was forced to resign in 2008 after MDC found he had downloaded inappropriate files from the Internet, including several related to sex and seduction and a computer hacking tutorial that linked to the Anarchist Cookbook, a manual for assembling homemade explosives. Vargas disputed the allegations.
Several months after his resignation, at least two of his former MDC supervisors reported receiving anonymous threats via email, texts and Facebook. Though they suspected Vargas, police were only able to trace the messages to a Hialeah public library.
Vargas then went to work as a graphic designer for another Miami company, but was fired after three months.
Employees from that firm also received anonymous emails, according to a source familiar with the case. Managers suspected the recently fired Vargas, but police were unable to identify the emails’ origin.
In May 2012, Vargas, through a temp agency, began working at Bullet Line, a promotional products company. He was let go in October after Bullet Line said it no longer had enough work to require Vargas’ services.
Weeks later, several Bullet Line employees began receiving troubling messages. The company reported the problem to police — and hired an attorney, Angel Castillo Jr., to investigate.
Castillo sued Yahoo to try to determine the anonymous user sending the emails. Through the lawsuit, he obtained records from the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, where the emails originated.
Castillo looked for former Bullet Line employees who used the library’s computers on the days the emails were sent. Vargas’ name popped up most frequently.
Several hours into his July 23 testimony, Vargas admitted to authoring the messages. Castillo told him he would close the case if Vargas wrote an apology to his former co-workers and promised not to send any more messages. Vargas sent the apology four hours later.
“It is time for me to show maturity and a promise not to repeat this mistake ever again,” he wrote.
But Vargas continued to worry about the case. He told his mother he feared losing his money, the mother’s relative said.
At 1:37 p.m. on July 26, a perturbed Vargas called 911 to report someone was following him and he was the victim of brujería — sorcery — that had begun with Castillo. Before that, Vargas had only once crossed Hialeah police’s radar, in May 2012, to report stolen hubcaps.
His mother told 911 her son had been acting strangely. She thought he needed a psychiatric evaluation. Police dispatched two officers but called them back after the mother said Vargas had left with a container to buy gasoline.
Vargas visited the Kendall office of Castillo, who was out. Police believe Vargas was intent on killing the lawyer.
When Vargas returned home, carrying the gasoline and a bag full of cash, he set fire to the money. His mother suffered burns trying to put out the flames with her feet. The smoke prompted 911 calls and a visit to apartment 408 from the building’s husband-and-wife managers, Italo and Samira Pisciotti, 79 and 69, respectively.
Vargas shot them dead.
Paramedics and police officers pulled up outside minutes later. Vargas shot at them from his balcony but missed, instead hitting 33-year-old Carlos Gavilanes, who was entering the building across the street. He died next to his unharmed 9-year-old son.
Vargas then made his way to apartment 304, kicked in the locked door and killed Patricio Simono, 64; his girlfriend, Merly Niebles, 51, and her daughter, Priscilla Perez, 17. Priscilla had been hiding in the bathtub.
In apartment 523, Vargas took Sarrida and Zoeb Nek hostage. Police negotiated with him for four hours before charging in, killing Vargas in a gunfight and rescuing the hostages.
Vargas, wearing a white undershirt, blue plaid long-sleeved shirt and jeans, was trying to reload his pistol, police said, and had two full magazines of ammunition.
His mother, the relative said, has been hospitalized and is devastated.
“She carries the pain of her son, but also the pain of the people who died,” the relative said. “She’s crying all the time.”
On Friday, nearly a week after the shooting, Vargas’ body lay in the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office.
No one had claimed it for burial.
Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas and David Ovalle, and El Nuevo Herald staff writers Enrique Flor, Julio Menache and David Noriega, contributed to this report.