Miami-Dade County

Trailer park vengeance: Fight over cellphone, then murder, then a beat-down

A makeshift memorial for Larry Navarro.
A makeshift memorial for Larry Navarro.

The River Park Trailer Court is one of those culturally distinct pockets in Miami-Dade where disputes are typically resolved internally. Most fights are man-to-man, woman-to-woman or some combination of the two.

Weapons are sometimes involved, residents say, because you don’t want to go into a knife fight without a knife or a gun, or in this case a Ford F-150.

And that’s exactly what residents and police say Daniel Arias, 38, used to kill Larry Navarro on Saturday when after an argument over a cellphone, Arias returned, revved the engine of his big truck and raced toward Navarro.

Navarro managed to get behind a metal pole. But it was no match for the truck, which tore the pole from its concrete base, then plowed into Navarro as the pole embedded in its engine.

After the truck stuck, Arias grabbed his keys and tried to run. But a gaggle of River Park Trailer Court residents gave chase and soon caught Arias. The mob beat him mercilessly. Then, they held him until police arrived.

“I saw the man one or two times but I don’t know who is,” Vivian Guerra said of Arias, 27. “I loved that guy. He was almost like my son. [Arias] got beat up bad. I hope he doesn’t die. He has to suffer for what he did.”

Miami-Dade police arrived with Arias clinging to life. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. Recuperating at the hospital with wounds to his head and elsewhere, Arias was charged last weekend with first-degree murder and leaving the scene of a crash.

He is being held in jail with no bond.

“Man, that was my cousin who died,” said a man at the trailer park Wednesday who wouldn’t share his name. “He was a good kid. That man had no respect for him.”

A background check of his criminal history shows Arias has interacted with police once, over a domestic battery charge. The 2014 case was closed after Arias underwent a pre-trial diversion program.

Police and witnesses said Arias and Navarro got into a fight over a cellphone early Saturday night. What they were fighting about, no one seems to be able to answer. At one point, Arias hit Navarro over the head “with an unknown metal object.”

Arias then got into his 2003 white, Ford F-150 and left. But not for long. Near the entrance to the trailer park he made a U-turn, then bee-lined for Navarro. As the truck picked up speed, Navarro tried to hide behind a metal pole.

But the truck hit the pole with such force it yanked it from its concrete stand and plowed into Navarro, who was killed immediately. The pole embedded in the truck and it couldn’t move. Arias grabbed his keys and tried to make a run for it.

But, police and residents said, the mob caught him. And beat him. Then held him until police showed up.

“They were able to catch the defendant and a struggle ensued where the defendant suffered multiple injuries,” Arias’ arrest affidavit says.

“They caught him and beat him up bad,” Guerra said.

Siberia Pantaleon said she saw Arias come back with his truck near the entrance, then pick up speed.

“The man is crazy, crazy, crazy,” she said.

The park, in a small pocket of unincorporated Miami-Dade surrounded by the city of Miami, has been there for decades. To call it ramshackle would be polite.

Most of the trailers are decaying, some with roofs caving in. Chicken wire is mixed with fencing in front of many trailers in a rough industrial section of town. Cats roam freely. Garbage is strewn about.

A middle-aged woman just outside the park’s entrance at 2260 NW 27th Ave. smiles at passersby with decaying teeth and offers her body for money.

One woman who helps manage the park but refused to give her name said Navarro’s presence was typical of many of the people who stay at the park: He didn’t live there, she said. He was homeless with nowhere else to go.

“We call the police. They sweep them out. Then they come back again,” she said. “It’s been a problem. There are lots of homeless who don’t live here.”

The park on the outskirt of Allapattah made headlines three years ago when probation officers from the Florida Department of Corrections ushered away 54 registered sex offenders. They were told to leave because of a strict county ordinance that doesn’t permit them within 2,500 feet of a school or anywhere else children might gather.

In this case, the offenders were deemed too close to the Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services building, a drop-off point for troubled kids from the state’s Department of Children & Families.

This week, River Park was its old self: small, muddy dirt roads, torn metal fences, sofas on the streets.

And amid the trailers and decay was a small memorial covered by a tarp. Inside were dozens of candles lit in jars, beer bottles, whiskey containers. And on the wall, pictures of Navarro. One, of him with a big grin, wearing a new, black Puma hat.

“Man, no respect for him,” said a man at the park claiming to be Navarro’s cousin. “He was single. No kids. He liked to listen to music, R&B, rock, rap. All I heard was it was over a cellphone.”