Last Updated: October 21st, 2019 at 3:15 pm
Read Time: 5 Minutes
South Florida is no stranger to notorious crimes and high crime rates. In 2018, the state witnessed over 80,000 violent crimes, a 9% decrease from the previous year, but that’s not without a few noteworthy crimes to report. South Florida crimes have been the subject of movies, documentaries, and even TV shows. Let’s take a look at some of the most infamous crimes in the past decades.
Famous South Florida Crimes From the 1920s to the late 2000s, famous crimes in South Florida have caused controversy, fear, and outrage within the community. Let’s explore South Florida’s most notorious crimes throughout the decades.
Fatty Walsh Murder – March 7, 1929 Fatty Walsh, the bodyguard to a famous New York mobster, was killed by rival mob figure Edward Wilson in the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. To this day, people say Walsh’s ghost haunts the hotel.
Anton J. Cermak, Major of Chicago Assassination – February 15, 1933 Would-be presidential assassin Giuseppe Zangara bought a .32 caliber pistol at a drugstore and waited a few days until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech in Bayfront Park. Once there, Zangara got off five shots but missed his target. One of the bullets, however, hit Cermak in the stomach, who later died from the wound. Zangara was then executed in the electric chair.
The Place for Steak Mob Hit – October 31, 1967 Thomas ‘The Enforcer’ Altamura, a mafia hitman, was having a Halloween dinner at the popular steak restaurant. What he didn’t know is that it was going to be his last meal. As he waited for his table, Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Esperti, a former boxer, burst into the restaurant and shot him twice in the head.
The Tanglewood Apartment Slayings – October 19, 1972 Denise and Diane Herthum, members of a prominent Baton Rouge family and two famous beauty queens were found slaughtered in the apartment of Jackson Smith, a suspected drug dealer. The two women were found strangled while Smith was shot dead. Although custom agents were outside the apartment, as part of surveillance for a narcotics activity operation, no one saw the killer(s). Years later police actually linked execution-style killer, Ricky Cravero to the crime.
Dadeland Mall Cocaine Cowboys – July 11, 1979 Perhaps one of South Florida’s most notorious crimes. Three men, part of the drug trade group better known as the Cocaine Cowboys, opened fire in a liquor store near Dadeland Mall. Two men were killed, and two employees were wounded. The crime was attributed to Griselda Blanco, known as the ‘Godmother of cocaine.”
John Callahan Murder – 1982 The South Florida president of Jai-Alai was found with two bullets in his head and a dime on his chest in the trunk of a Cadillac by the Miami International Airport parking lot. At the moment no suspects were found. Eventually, the murder was linked to Boston’s Winter Hill gang, led by famous mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.
The Miami River Cops – July 28, 1985 Lead by Armando ‘Scarface’ Garcia, an officer from the Miami Police Department, a group of crooked cops stormed a boat to rob men guarding a stash of over 350 kilograms of cocaine. The men jumped overboard, three of them didn’t know how to swim and drowned. The event led to a years-long investigation that caught the world’s attention and ended in over 100 officers arrested, fired, suspended, or reprimanded.
Suniland Shootout – April 11, 1986 The shooting behind the Suniland Shopping Center is labeled as one of the deadliest in FBI history. Two FBI agents died in an exchange of gunfire with heavily armed suspected bank robbers. The shooting went on for only five minutes, yet 145 shots were fired, and both subjects died, two FBI agents passed, and another six backup FBI agents were severely wounded.
Aileen Wuornos’ Men – 1989-1990 Serial killer, Aileen Wuornos was found guilty of killing six men between 1989 and 1990. She was later executed in Florida in 2002. Her story shocked everyone, to the point where it was turned into the famous film, Monster, starring Charlize Theron.
Versace Murder – July 15, 1997 One of the most notorious and famous crimes of South Florida. Serial killer Andrew Cunanan found his way to the Versace mansion in Miami Beach and gunned down the renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace on the steps of his mansion. A few weeks later, Cunanan killed himself, the reason behind his crimes was never explained.
Gus Boulis Murder – February 6, 2001 Founder of Miami Subs, Gus Boulis was gunned down in Fort Lauderdale by a hitman. Anthony ‘Little Tony’ Ferrari, ‘Big Tony’ Moscatiello, and James ‘Pudgy’ Fiorillo were all convicted for his murder.
“Miami Zombie” Attack – May 26, 2012 Ronald Poppo had been homeless for four decades. Rudy Eugene, a former North Miami Beach High School football player was starting a mobile car-wash business. Both men crossed paths when a sleeping Poppo was attacked by Eugene in a crime that shocked not just the South Florida community, but the nation. Eugene tore off Poppo’s clothes and chewed apart most of his face before police arrived at the scene and killed him.
The Facebook Killer – August 8, 2013 Derek Medina was charged with murdering his wife, Jennifer Alonso. Medina posted a picture of his wife’s body with the caption, “Facebook people, you’ll see me in the news.” Unfortunately, the photo was seen by thousands of people before Facebook removed it.
The Casey Anthony Case – 2008 Another notorious crime in South Florida that captured everyone’s attention. The high-profile trial has been turned into documentaries and movies. Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.There’s no doubt some of these high-profile crimes seem like movie plots, to the point many of them have been portrayed by the media through movies and documentaries. Beyond the mob crimes of the early days to those bizarre crime scenes that defy explanation, South Florida has been the background for plenty of notorious crimes.