Legends of the Fall

In Miami's jungle of condo towers, 16 people have jumped to their deaths.

Zoltan

February 25, 2007

4:30 a.m., Jade Winds

Edina, a curvy model from Hungary, made the 911 call from the eighth floor. Her boyfriend, Zoltan, had gone ballistic, she told cops. After an evening together at Mansion nightclub in South Beach, he had begun to beat her.

Zoltan, a hulking 26-year-old bodybuilder, was born in Jordan. After living in Canada, he moved to Florida in January 2007 and began attending aviation school. A few weeks after the move, over a lamb and hummus dinner with his uncle, the tattooed muscleman spoke passionately about becoming a pilot. "We ate, we talked, we laughed," says the uncle, Mohod Flafil. They later made plans to go to mosque together.

In the wee hours of February 25, after drinking at the club, Zoltan drove his luxury car to Jade Winds Condo with Edina. There "a struggle ensued on the first floor," according to the medical examiner's investigative report. Edina, with bruises on her face and arms, "took off in an attempt to escape," and the couple left a trail of blood in the lobby and elevator. Zoltan chased her upstairs, where she hid in a friend's unit. She last saw her boyfriend near a balcony on the eighth floor.

When Miami-Dade Police arrived, they found Zoltan's 238-pound body sprawled on the roof of the first-floor balcony. He had a star-shaped fracture on the back of his head, broken ribs, and a hemorrhage in his left testicle, according to the autopsy report.

Zoltan's uncle — a cabinetmaker from Pompano Beach — believes he was murdered. "My nephew didn't kill himself," he insists, his grape-hued lips curving into a frown. "He loved himself."

On a recent muggy Tuesday, Flafil leans against the outside of a warehouse in Pompano Beach. He takes a drag off a Marlboro Light and points up at the sky. "Every time I see an airplane," he says softly. "I think of him."

Nick

April 7, 2007

7:57 a.m., Winston Towers

Ana awoke to find herself alone in bed. Her 85-year-old husband was nowhere to be seen. Nick was a Romanian-born building manager with round hazel eyes and a history of clinical depression. Ana shuffled down to the lobby and found a pack of firefighters, who gave her the news. He had fallen nearly 100 feet and landed in the parking lot. His head faced toward the sea.

Dominique

April 23, 2007

7:04 a.m., Sailboat Cay

The wavy-haired stock market investor landed in a concrete planter after jumping from the sixth floor. Dominique's expensive wristwatch was covered in dirt, and seven of his ribs were broken. On his forehead was a cavernous wound. At age 55, he left behind a wife, two kids, and a carpet-cleaning shop named after him.

Tavarius

May 1, 2007

1 p.m., One Miami

On June 29, 2006, a quietly confident 24-year-old named Tavarius logged onto his financial blog. "It makes me feel good," he typed, "when individuals my age manage their wealth appropriately." Then he logged off.

The slim, stylish entrepreneur had made thousands in the stock market and liked to post investment advice. But money, friends now say, was to blame for his death.

Tavarius grew up in a two-story yellow house with his grandma Helen in Royal Palm Isles, a middle-class neighborhood in Broward County. Childhood friend Brandie Zackery remembers him this way: "We were the geeks until he got popular in high school... Even then, he was always humble, never stuck-up."

In college at Florida A&M, he hung with ambitious types. College pal Enitan Bereola compares Tavarius to Barack Obama: "He could tell you he believed in you, and you would believe in yourself."

Out one night in South Beach, Tavarius's group of friends got into an argument with restaurant management. People began to yell. "Tavarius stood up, apologized to the manager, and calmed everybody down," Bereola explains. "He was effortlessly cool."

After college, Tavarius founded a Miami-based boutique investment firm called iVestDirect and made thousands in no time. He recruited clients such as rapper Rico Love and lived in a luxury 17th-floor penthouse, just a few steps from Biscayne Bay.

But then the economy soured. As quickly as he'd earned it, Tavarius lost all of his money. It brought him down so low he stopped showering and shaving. He slept all day and wouldn't eat or talk much. On April 20, 2007, he was served an eviction notice, according to Miami-Dade court documents.

Ten days later, Tavarius invited some friends over to the penthouse for brunch. He didn't tell them he was getting kicked out. A group of people was upstairs playing videogames when George Caboverde, a teenage party promoter, drove up to the building. "Everybody went out and had a huge celebration the night before," Caboverde says. "I don't think they'd been to bed yet." Caboverde had ordered spicy shrimp from Chef Creole Seafood Takeout for Tavarius. He never got to eat it.

A few minutes after pulling up in his car, Caboverde spotted a slim, lifeless body near the driveway. It was Tavarius.

Miami Police Officer J. Garcia soon arrived and determined the party host had jumped. The cop noted, "I observed [Tavarius] laying in the southwest corner" of the lot, near the condo restaurant. In the right pocket of his gray shorts were the keys to his condo.

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