11 shocking killings (and a zombie attack!) that could only happen in Miami

From a Facebook confession with a photo of the corpse to a mass murder on a bicycle, here are Miami’s most bizarre episodes that defy explanation — crimes of the “Only in Miami” variety.

1. The Miami Zombie

Ronald Poppo, 65, had been homeless on the streets of Miami for four decades. Rudy Eugene, 31, was a former North Miami Beach High School football player who hoped to start a mobile car-wash business. The two men crossed paths on May 26, 2012, when Poppo, who was napping on the causeway sidewalk, was attacked by Eugene in a grisly crime that shocked the nation. A naked Eugene (he stripped as he crossed the causeway) tore off Poppo’s clothes and chewed apart most of his face before police shot and killed Eugene at the scene. In death, he earned the nicknames, “Miami Zombie” and “Causeway Cannibal.”

2. Naked man throws severed head at cop

Suspect Alberto Mesa, 23, doffed his clothes after stabbing his girlfriend Dina Tormos, 18, and beheading her with a hunting-type knife on March 2, 1985. When a young police officer spotted Mesa leaning against a Metrorail support at dawn in the quiet neighborhood, he hurled the woman’s head at the officer and shouted, “I killed her. She’s the devil!” The rest of her body — stabbed 111 times — was found in Mesa’s apartment. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

3. Cocaine cowboys

One of Miami’s top cocaine dealers, 37-year-old Jimenez Panesso, and his bodyguard, Juan Carlos Hernandez, 22, were followed into Dadeland Mall’s former Crown Liquors by a duo that had been waiting for them in the parking lot on July 11, 1979. Wordlessly, one of the men shot Panesso four times in the face with a .380 Beretta. The other gunman sprayed the store with a submachine pistol. Two dead dealers, four others injured. Years later Griselda Blanco, “the Godmother of cocaine,” was linked to the hit. An assassin on a motorcycle killed her in Medellín in 2012.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

4. The Versace murder

On July 15, 1997, Serial killer Andrew Cunanan, 27, gunned down famed fashion designer Gianni Versace, 50, on the steps of Versace’s Ocean Drive mansion, Casa Casuarina, three blocks from where Versace had eaten breakfast moments before at News Cafe. A week later, Cunanan, who had killed four men on his way to South Beach, shot himself to death aboard a houseboat on Indian Creek. He left no explanation for his crimes.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

5. The crooked Miami River cops

A consortium of crooked cops in the Miami Police Department—masterminded by Armando “Scarface” Garcia, a 23-year-old officer—storm a boat on the Miami River to rob men guarding a stash of 350 kilograms of cocaine on July 28, 1985. The startled men jump overboard but three can’t swim and drown. The investigation, which made news around the world, lasted for years. More than 100 officers were arrested, fired, suspended or reprimanded.

Photo credit: Facebook

6. The Facebook Killer

Derek Medina, 31, was charged with killing his wife Jennifer Alfonso, 26, in the apartment they shared and posting a picture of her body, slumped dead on their kitchen floor on Aug. 8, 2013. “Facebook people, you’ll see me in the news,” he posted on the photo that was seen by thousands before Facebook removed the image.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

7. Mass murder on a bicycle

Middle-school teacher Carl Brown, upset over $20 repair work on his lawn mower, rode his bicycle to Bob Moore’s shop three miles from his Hialeah townhouse on Aug. 20, 1982. There, in what was then the deadliest mass murder in Dade County history, Brown opened fire with a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun. Eight men and women were killed and three others wounded. Brown calmly rode away. Mike Kram, a neighboring metal shop owner, gave chase in a 1981 Lincoln, shot Brown in the heart and crushed him against a concrete light pole with his car.


8. Beauty queens under surveillance

Two beauty queen sisters, Denise and Diane Herthum, 20 and 18, members of a prominent Baton Rouge family, and a drug dealing suspect, Jackson Smith, 31, were slaughtered on Oct. 19, 1972, in the apartment Smith had been renting. The women were strangled and found with black hoods over their heads. Smith was shot. The twist? Customs agents were outside 24/7 keeping that apartment under surveillance for narcotics activity. No one saw the killer(s) enter and the case was unsolved. Many years later police linked execution-style killer Ricky Cravero to the killings but now one has paid for the crime.

Photo credit: Miami Herald

9. Deadliest FBI shootout in history

FBI agents Benjamin P. Grogan, 53, and Jerry L. Dove, 30, died in an exchange of gunfire with heavily armed suspected bank robbers Michael Platt and William Matix on April 11, 1986. After five minutes and 145 shots, two agents and the suspects were dead, and six other backup FBI agents were wounded in the bloody battle.

Photo credit: Centennial Project

10. Presidential assassination plot

Would-be presidential assassin Giuseppe Zangara, a Miami bricklayer, had it in for capitalists after the Great Depression and a 1926 Miami hurricane made the living anything but easy. Zangara bought a .32 caliber pistol for $8 at a drugstore and two days later made his way to Bayfront Park, where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was giving a speech to the largest crowd assembled in Miami on Feb. 15, 1933. Zangara, aiming at Roosevelt, got off five shots but missed his target. A wayward bullet struck Anton J. Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, in the stomach. He died from the wound on March 6. Zangara was executed in the electric chair on March 20.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

11. The coke-sniffing socialite

Stanley Cohen, 52, a successful developer, married his secretary, Joyce McDillon, in 1974. Twelve years later, his wife, a cocaine-sniffing socialite, was convicted of hiring three hit men to kill Cohen in the bedroom of their home on March 7, 1986. She was convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to 25 years to life. In 2013, the Florida Parole Commission voted to set a target release date of April 2048. She would be 97.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

This story was first published here.

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