In the last month or so of his life, Elord Revolte bounced from the home of a cousin, to an aunt, to a juvenile detention center, to foster care and to the streets of South Beach.
His sad journey led to a familiar place: a juvenile lockup.
And then, finally, to an unfamiliar one: the morgue.
Elord, 17, died Monday night at Holtz Children’s Hospital, a day after he had been beaten by a juvenile detention center gang that may have included as many as 20 other detainees, police said. He became the second youth to die this year while in the custody of the state Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Even though they beat him up, they never took him to the doctor,” Enock Revolte told the Miami Herald about his son. “He had to ask to go to the hospital.”
In some ways, Elord was a typical teen. He liked to hang out at the beach with friends. He cooked breakfast for his cousin. And he dreamed of being a rapper, penning lyrics that spoke of man-sized pain.
But the teen was troubled. He ran when things turned difficult. And he was becoming far too acquainted with the police and delinquency authorities.
Still, days after the tragic incident, Revolte and other family members say they are haunted by questions about the teen’s death: What caused the melee in which Elord was so badly injured? Where were the guards who were supposed to protect him? Why did it take so long for authorities to seek medical care?
“This is ugly,” said Maxime Saintellus, Revolte’s nephew who once cared for the boy. “A kid gets beat up in jail. Where [are] the police? Where is the security?”
Elord had been roaming the streets of South Beach when he was arrested for armed robbery on Aug. 27. He was taken to the juvenile justice detention center in Miami, where prosecutors said they were considering whether to charge him as an adult.
Neither the Department of Children & Families nor the Department of Juvenile Justice will discuss Elord’s death in detail with reporters. A DCF incident report on the death, obtained by the Miami Herald, includes no more than three sentences.
“At the time of death, there was an open [foster care] case involving the family,” the report said. “The family had prior involvement with the department.”
Miami-Dade police have said they do not yet know the cause of Elord’s death and have begun an investigation, along with juvenile justice administrators. Revolte, meanwhile, has retained a lawyer.
“They took him alive and now they are giving me a corpse,” he said.
Before his arrest by Miami Beach police last week, Elord had recorded a handful of scrapes with the law. In May 2014, sources told the Herald, the teen was charged with trespassing and criminal mischief in Miami-Dade. The offense occurred amid a statewide push to reduce the number of kids in detention centers by giving them second chances for non-violent crimes. Elord was given a “judicial warning” — a stern lecture by a black-robed judge.
Earlier this year, he was charged with battery on a detention officer in Palm Beach County, sources said. The charge was reduced to misdemeanor battery, and Elord was released from custody in February. The teen also had been charged with petty theft in the county.
Saintellus doesn’t believe the charges, saying that “this is a kid who respected people and wouldn’t do just anything.”
Born in Haiti, Elord came to the United States with his dad while his mom remained on the island. Two years ago, however, the family had its first encounter with DCF, in Palm Beach County. Someone called the agency’s hotline, alleging that Elord wasn’t being properly supervised. The investigation was closed with “no indicators” that the allegations were true.
Elord’s home life often was rocky, said Saintellus, 25, who added that the teen and his stepmother didn’t get along.
“She had the father move to Alabama while he was in lockup in Jacksonville,” Saintellus said of Revolte’s wife.
After Elord’s release, Saintellus said he agreed to care for the youth himself.
“He was happy; he never gave me any problems,” he said, sitting in the living room of his mother’s house in Lake Worth. “If he was still living with me, this wouldn’t have happened to him. With me, he never had problems.”
“His problem was a lack of support. He was looking for support, and once he didn’t have it, he was out there searching for a way to feed himself, and take care of himself,” Saintellus said.
But three months into the stay, Saintellus said he decided it would be best for Elord to move in with his mom, Elord’s aunt, because he and his girlfriend were raising two teenage daughters, ages 13 and 17.
“Here, he found freedom; my mom couldn’t control him,” Saintellus said. “He would leave with his friends, go to South Beach. He would say he was looking for work, for things to do, to buy clothes, buy food because his dad didn’t want to take care of him.”
After his son failed to come home three nights in a row, Revolte called the police, he said, and Elord was found and locked up. It was after one of his son’s stints in detention that Revolte said he decided to take the teen to Haiti, hoping Elord’s mother and older sister could talk some sense into him.
“After he heard the flight was boarding for Haiti, he ran,” said Saintellus, who had driven father and son to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for the flight. “He assumed his father would leave him [in Haiti] for two to three years.”
Revolte called Saintellus and told him to report Elord missing to police. But instead of staying in South Florida while Elord was missing, Revolte boarded the flight for Haiti where, he said, he stayed for “15 or 22 days.” After returning to the United States, Revolte headed for Alabama on a family emergency, Saintellus said. Child welfare authorities, meanwhile, accused Revolte of abandoning his son, something Revolte denies.
In the days leading up to his death, Elord had been placed in a foster home on Sheridan Avenue in Miami Beach, under the supervision of the Children’s Home Society. He lived there two days before running off again.
The teen’s foster mother said she had been told by other youths in her care that Elord was hanging around South Beach and “was getting high.” When detectives came to her house to talk about other foster kids, the foster mom said she told them exactly where to find Elord.
“When the cops were sitting here in my living room, I was telling them I had a kid here who the cops are looking for, and the other kids say he’s on South Beach. Nobody really cared,” she said.
The foster mother showed a reporter a big black garbage bag filled with Elord’s clothes and possessions in a corner of the home’s back patio, away from several other heaps of laundry in front of the washer and dryer. She said she asked a caseworker to pick up the clothes, but the caseworker never came.
Angel Tamayo, 17, who lives at the foster home and works at a Chicken Kitchen around the corner, remembers the young man scribbling song lyrics on a blue notepad. Elord wanted to be a rapper, like his cousin Saintellus.
In the bag behind the house that contains Elord’s clothes and belongings, that notepad has one page with these verses penciled on it in messy cursive: “Privilege man / gilty father / ask the lord come fight the weather / gilty man don’t say you matter / speak the evil you a sinner / son of god I’m just a brother.”
Miami Herald staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.