The Miami Strangler, Part 1

Brilliant thug Harrel Braddy has terrorized South Florida since 1984. The death needle awaits.

"Don't worry, lady," Braddy replied. "I'll take very good care of it."

Braddy drove off. Police later found the car abandoned in Hialeah. "It was a mess inside, because he had stopped at Burger King and different places," Cole remembered. "All the junk was on the floor."

The next night, Griffin D. Davis, an aspiring gospel singer, crossed paths with the violent fugitive. The son of a Baptist pastor, Davis had driven from Riviera Beach to Hialeah with his younger brother and a friend. They had an appointment at Cross Over Recording Studio on West 21st Avenue to prepare for a new gospel album. Davis was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and Stacy Adams shoes.

"We have one album. We have a few tapes," Davis explained in an April 1985 deposition. "We were there to take a tape so we could let [the recording engineer] know how we wanted our master mixed."

As they talked inside the studio, Davis realized he'd forgotten to bring one of the cassettes inside. He walked out to his father's borrowed 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood but couldn't immediately find the tape. "So I reached over, you know, to look and see if it had slid under my seat, back up in the floor," Davis recalled. "I didn't find it back there." And that's when Davis saw someone out of the corner of his eye. "I noticed a person had passed by me real quick," he said.

Davis began to exit the car. He then felt the cold barrel of a gun press against the side of his head. Braddy needed a new vehicle.

"Slide over," Braddy told him.

"No," Davis replied, scared. "You can take the car. I won't call the police or anything. Just let me go."

"No. Slide over."

Braddy drove west toward U.S. 27. He was dressed in light blue work trousers and a faded red shirt. His hair had grown thick and unkempt, as if he hadn't combed it in a long time. "He kept saying little words, cussing words," Davis recalled.

Davis tried to make conversation with his abductor. He explained he was a religious man, a Baptist. Braddy replied he attended a church that was part of the Holiness denomination, which subscribes to the idea of divine healing.

"He wanted to know what the difference was between Baptist and Holiness," Davis said. "I told him: 'You know, the denomination doesn't make no difference. We all serve the same God, so it don't make no difference what the denomination is.' "

Davis also kept repeating, "Please don't kill me."

"He kept telling me that if I was trying him or anything, if I tried to jump out of the car, he would kill me, and he didn't want no bad luck on his hands," Davis recalled in the deposition. "He knew if he killed me, by me being a gospel singer and preacher, by my father being a minister and everything, he would have bad luck. He didn't want to have bad luck on his hands.... He sounded like an intelligent young man to me, but he had got himself in trouble. He was going about the wrong way to get out of it."

Davis trained a steady eye on Braddy, who was holding a large gun with a four-inch barrel and a wooden handle. Braddy asked if Davis had any money. "Don't lie," Braddy warned.

"Yes," Davis replied.

"Give it to me."

He handed over $50. Braddy then told Davis to give him his driver's license. Davis placed it on the dashboard.

They drove for about 30 minutes until they reached a deserted stretch of U.S. 27, near Krome Avenue. Braddy pulled over.

"Get out," Braddy said. He then asked Davis if he wanted any of the tapes or his sunglasses.

Davis shook his head.

"I didn't really want that because I wanted to make sure he wasn't going to shoot me in the back," Davis remembered.

Just then, the lights of another car flashed in the rearview mirror. It distracted Braddy. Davis jumped out of the vehicle and ran south, toward the oncoming car. Braddy slammed down the accelerator and raced north on U.S. 27, the Cadillac's lights off. But then the Caddy screeched to a stop and turned around; its lights flashed on.

Davis ran across U.S. 27 and dove into a canal about three feet below the roadway. He squatted in the dark water, silent and still.

Braddy drove the Cadillac slowly up and down U.S. 27, peering through the window in search of his former captive in the brush. "He didn't see me," Davis recalled. Finally Braddy drove northwest and turned south on Krome Avenue, heading toward Homestead.

Davis made his way to a telephone, and patrol officers delivered him to Miami-Dade Police headquarters. There the gospel singer noticed a wanted poster in the hallway.

"Wait a minute," Davis told the cops. "This is the guy."

Two weeks later, on October 14, 1984, a highway patrol officer detained Braddy in Baxley, Georgia, after he provided Davis's stolen driver's license as identification. Braddy did not resist arrest.

In Florida Braddy was charged with attempted murder, robbery, escape, kidnapping, and armed burglary. One year later, he cut a deal with prosecutors for 30 years in prison.

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