Legends of the Fall

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

At age 18, he left home, dropped out of community college, and became a Buddhist. He eventually ended up in South Beach, where he lost weight and made friends. He rarely phoned his parents. "I felt he pushed me away," Ellie says with a heavy sigh. "He didn't share a whole lot." Years later, when she traveled to Miami to visit him, he had metamorphosed into a trim, strikingly handsome social butterfly. People on the street would wave at Terry. "It was like he was a celebrity," she recalls. "They called him Mr. Miami."

The pay was good at the bar, and Terry was generous with his cash. If somebody had a birthday, he would buy the cake. If he knew a friend liked dirty martinis, he would make a special trip to the store. "Terry threw money around like crazy," Ellie remembers.

In 2001, public records show, he took out a $94,500 mortgage from Southeast Bankers Mortgage on Lincoln Road. But he soon got into trouble with the IRS and lost his condo, Ellie says. He owed creditors thousands.

Terry began to gain back the weight he lost, and Ellie suspects he went through a breakup.

The night before Terry died, he watched The Simpsons and ate a hamburger with a friend, Ellie says. Once they parted, he went home, unlocked his front door, and walked to the rear of unit 509 in the middle of the night. He gazed at the city lights and jumped. His body landed on the hood of a car.

Miami Beach Police were in the area and "heard a loud thump and then moaning," according to the coroner's report. When one officer approached Terry, he was still alive. "Why didn't I die?" he asked.

In pain, he pleaded for the officer to shoot him. Fire-rescue workers rushed him to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead three hours later.

These days, the thought of Terry's fall wakes Ellie in the middle of the night. "I have a hard time going to sleep," she says with a shaky voice. "And his father cries in church every Sunday."

Plácido

January 28, 2009

4:10 p.m., Mar Del Plata

Responding to a "777-777" — police code for a death investigation — Miami Beach Police Det. Robert Lawrence found Plácido slumped by the pool. The collision had broken his neck and knocked out his top teeth. The father of two hadn't been able to work since 1992 because of a disability. He had told psychiatrists at Mercy Hospital he was hallucinating. The voices in his head urged him: "You must die."

Jennifer

June 25, 2009

11:10 p.m., 1800 Club

Other girls were jealous of Jennifer. It seemed like the stunning Jewish brunette had everything. She was one of the brightest in her sorority, with a mellow demeanor guys loved and a well-off, supportive family. It made no sense, friends would say later, that she was prone to such impassioned breakdowns.

Jennifer was a New York native who moved to a one-story North Miami Beach home in 1996. In the front yard was a big tree that shaded a weathered basketball hoop. During high school, she traveled to Poland to explore the history of the Holocaust.

A few years later, in her sorority at Florida State University, she earned a reputation as "the funky, free-spirited one, as well as the smartest," says former roommate Carrie. Jennifer and Carrie roomed together sophomore year, with a Britney Spears poster on the wall and a closet full of shared clothes. Each night, Jennifer would stuff a towel in the crack under the bedroom door because she was paranoid about cockroaches. The roommates "talked about boys and shoes — just girl stuff," Carrie says.

She was away at grad school at Boston University in December 2007 when she first broke down. While studying dentistry, she was kicked out for "alcohol abuse," according to a medical examiner's report. She went to rehab but never stopped wanting to die.

Afterward, she moved back to Miami. She sometimes stole antianxiety pills from her mom's prescription bottle. She didn't like to be left alone.

By September 2008, she moved in with a boyfriend named Will at the 1800 Club, a sleek, 423-foot tower just a stone's throw from Margaret Pace Park.

Maria, who sits at the front desk, says the young couple would fight loudly and often. "The neighbors complained. They said, 'These people argue every day. How can they live together?'"

On June 24, Will returned home from a business trip and kept working. Jennifer "became hysterical because she felt she was being ignored," according to the medical examiner's investigation. She threatened to kill herself, so Will took her cell phone to call the cops.

"The argument became violent when [Jennifer] attempted to get her phone from him," the police report says. Dog walkers in the park below heard them shouting from their 32nd-floor balcony. "If you call them, I'm going to jump!" Jennifer screamed. Then she stepped onto a patio chair, climbed onto a rail, and sat there. "It's my time!" she yelled before plunging to the ground.

Mariajose

July 28, 2008

8:30 p.m., Opera Tower

Mariajose, a short 29-year-old with long brown locks, was hosting an afternoon pool party. "She seemed happy," says one close friend. "She had just moved into her new condo." Though she had been hospitalized for suicide attempts, she was excelling as an analyst for Burger King Corp. And it wouldn't be long before she'd be done with her master's in business at University of Miami.

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