Viral Rapper Stitches: Some Truth, Many Questions

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Alexander was allowed to continue seeing his sons under supervision, but he could not have any contact with Esther. A family court judge also ordered Alexander to attend anger management classes. Records detailing the allegations against the senior Katsabanis have since been destroyed.

Esther and Alexander declined repeated requests for comment, including Facebook messages that explained New Times wanted to interview them about their son's assertions that he was on his own and selling drugs when a teenager.

Court records indicate Alexander was a deadbeat dad. Esther's attorney filed motions at least seven times between 1996 and 2005 to hold her ex-husband in contempt because he had missed child-support payments. According to an August 7, 2003 document filed by Alexander's attorneys, the elder Katsabanis was broke: "These financial circumstances have resulted not only in non-payment of child support, but also in the former husband's inability to pay his current mortgage, credit cards, automobile payments, and other living expenses." At the time, Alexander lived in a two-floor, five-bedroom waterfront estate on Allison Road in Miami Beach that he and his second wife, Maria Chavez, purchased for $737,000 in 1997. They sold it for $2 million in 2005.

Records show that similar issues surfaced when it came to caring for the kids. Although he was supposed to pick up his boys every other weekend, he missed half of the first 18 appointments, according to a motion filed by Esther's lawyer.

In a brief interview with New Times, Chavez, who divorced Alexander Katsabanis in 2010, says young Phillip was both musical and loyal. "He was just the sweetest little boy," she says. "He was very protective of his brothers even though he was younger, and he always loved to sing and dance."

Phillip Katsabanis/Stitches, however, says he did not get along with his father. "I don't talk to my dad at all," he asserts. "I never had a relationship with him."

Aside from an absent father, Katsabanis and his older siblings, Dimitri and Alexander Jr., led a relatively normal suburban life. Their mom is a health insurance broker who bought a two-floor, three-bedroom townhouse on Bird Road in 1997 for $179,000. She's remarried twice in the past decade. She divorced her second husband in 2006, two years after tying the knot.

A year later, when Katsabanis was 12, Esther began dating Jose Cabado, a Miami-Dade Police detective in the special crimes bureau, concentrating on sex-related offenses. This is something Stitches' haters have publicized on blogs and social media pages.

"I can't control who my mom dates," Phillip says. "He has never done me wrong. If people want to talk bad about it, that is their problem. I don't give a damn about it."

The couple shares an orange West Kendall house with 25-year-old Dimitri and Alexander Jr., now 23. It's plastered with Christmas lights and is decorated with stones that say things like "Happiness is homegrown." When New Times visited July 1, no one answered the door after several knocks.

Despite his claims of being estranged from his father, Katsabanis and his brothers post photos on their Instagram accounts that show a tight-knit brood. When "Brick in Yo Face" went viral, Dimitri put up a photo of Katsabanis with the caption: "4 million views for my little bro... Stitches!!!!" An image Alexander Jr. posted in mid-June shows the three brothers baring their teeth for the camera. "At the end of it all, the only thing that matters is #family," read the caption.

When reached on his cell phone, Alexander Jr. declined to comment on behalf of himself and Dimitri. "[Stitches] doesn't want to involve his family in his music," Alexander Jr. says. "And I'd prefer to keep my family and my personal life out of his business."

Phillip says he always maintained a close relationship with his mother despite moving out at an early age. "I have a good family," he says. "But I grew up really fast and wanted to be independent."

In school, former classmate Alexander Rimas says Katsabanis "would freestyle... roam the halls and do whatever the fuck he wanted." Rimas says he does not know anything about Katsabanis' being expelled or having a juvenile criminal record.

"I'm serious, my nigga. Anyone who brings negativity on me or my family, that person is going to see me the next day."

Miami-Dade Schools data is private since he was a minor. The only proof Katsabanis got in trouble is a March 29, 2012, court document that states the then-16-year-old boy received probation for an unspecified crime. And he has no criminal record as an adult.

His brothers are a different story. In May, federal prosecutors charged Dimitri and Alexander Jr., along with 18 others, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identity theft, among other crimes. They allegedly masterminded a scheme to obtain iPhones at discounted prices by stealing personal information. The brothers are accused of pilfering at least 1,249 cellular devices from Verizon, which incurred a loss of more than $545,500. They had to post a bond of $50,000 to remain free -pending trial, which is scheduled for October 6.

During their brief phone conversation with New Times, Alexander Jr. and Dimitri insisted their alleged crimes have nothing to do with Stitches. But they backed up their little brother's claims that he earned a living selling blow. Moments after that call ended, the rapper called New Times to threaten legal action and bodily harm. "If you write anything bad about me," he warned, "I will sue you." Four hours later, he added, "I'm serious, my nigga. Anyone who brings negativity on me or my family, that person is going to see me the next day. I don't care about this music shit." Days later, after a reporter emailed him to check facts in this article, he replied with a phone call full of expletives and then followed up with a text message: "I hope your fake story is worth the ass beating that you gonna get lil nigga. Doubt me I dare you sucka."

About a month after he was put on probation for the crime he won't talk about, Katsabanis dropped the "Lil Phill" handle and began his metamorphosis into Stitches. "That was just a different time in my life," the rapper recalls. "I was just a kid back then."

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.
Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.