Miami's Longest-Serving Jail Inmate Still Hasn't Gone on Trial 13 Years After a Murder Spree

Miami's Longest-Serving Jail Inmate Still Hasn't Gone on Trial 13 Years After a Murder Spree
Illustration by Brian Stauffer

As he turns the corner of SW 113th Place in Richmond Heights, Chuck Berriman hits the brake pedal of his red Toyota pickup and looks over his shoulder toward the place where his youngest brother died.

"That's it right there," he says, pointing toward a dilapidated beige townhouse with an overgrown lawn. "That's the house."

For the past 13 years, he's thought a lot about the night Robert was killed. How Robert ran from this home to escape the man with the shotgun. How he tried to hop a tall wooden fence in the backyard. How he failed to jump over it, and how that sealed his fate.

Witnesses say a man named Danyan Mangham killed two people that night, and to this day, no one really knows why. What began as a chill, Friday-night hangout turned into a bloodbath when Mangham picked up 12-gauge shotgun and started firing. The dozen other people he'd been drinking with scattered into bedrooms and locked the doors; when they emerged, 24-year-old Robert and another man, 26-year-old Jorge De Los Rios, were dead.

Ever since police captured Mangham three days later, Chuck Berriman has known exactly who killed his brother. There's never been any real doubt that Mangham pulled the trigger that night in 2005. Multiple witnesses were there when he fired the gun. Not even his own attorneys dispute he did it.

Yet 13 years later, the case still hasn't gone to trial. In fact, Mangham is now the longest-serving inmate at Miami-Dade's jail, a place where most defendants are in and out within a year. The delay has cost taxpayers $250,000 in legal fees.

But the slow road to justice has also come at an incalculable cost to the victims' families. Although Mangham is behind bars, the uncertainty about when he will go to trial has delayed their grieving process and inflicted them with unending anxiety. At the back of their minds, there's always the possibility of the state dropping the case or a judge allowing Mangham to bond out. A common sentiment from well-meaning friends — "at least he's in jail" — feels anything but comforting.

Mangham is the longest-serving inmate at Miami-Dade's jail, where most defendants are in and out within a year.

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"That doesn't satisfy you," says Doris Ryan, the mother of Jorge De Los Rios. "It's easy for people to say that, but it's not gonna heal the wounds we have."

For Chuck Berriman, losing a sibling was an excruciating experience made even worse by the fact that it was already a familiar one. At the time of his brother's death, he had already watched his two younger sisters die in a drowning and a house fire. Robert's murder felt like another cruel example of the family curse.

As time marched on, the idea of the curse became harder to argue with. Ten months after Robert was shot, Berriman's father died of melanoma. Four months later, his only remaining sibling, David, succumbed to HIV/AIDS. Finally, in 2013, lung cancer came for his mother. Each time he returned to Woodlawn South Cemetery to bury a relative, he couldn't help but blame Mangham.

"He killed not only my little brother; he killed the spirit of my family," Berriman says. "Everybody I loved and who loved me with all their heart, consigned to some 18-by-18 square. That's some shit."

He is now 60, with red hair that is graying and a heart that beats faster than it should. In August, emergency room doctors pumped him with drugs to slow his heart rate and scheduled him for open-heart surgery. Those health scares are just one more reason he wants justice served for his brother.

Five years ago, as his mom lay dying in a hospital bed, she clasped his hand and made him promise he would be there for Mangham's trial. He didn't know then how much longer he'd have to wait.

"I don't get the holdup," Berriman says. "Thirteen years? I've never heard that in my life."

click to enlarge Robert Berriman, 24, was training to be a nurse when he was shot at a house party in February 2005. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BERRIMAN FAMILY
Robert Berriman, 24, was training to be a nurse when he was shot at a house party in February 2005.
Photo courtesy of the Berriman family

Chuck Berriman was born in Tampa, the grandson of a cigar magnate who built his factory there in 1903. The Berriman Brothers Cigar Company, started by brothers Edward and Matthew, flourished for decades before merging with a competitor in 1930. But business dried up after the United States enacted a trade embargo against the Castro regime in the '60s and the brothers couldn't get Cuban tobacco anymore. Chuck's grandfather, Edward, took a corporate job with Goodwill and sold off some of his real estate to stay afloat.

For the first few years of his life, Chuck lived with his parents and two younger sisters, Trish and Anne, in a house on what was left of his grandfather's sprawling property in South Tampa. His father, Ted, was a salesman, and his mother, Patricia, worked as a nurse. When their shifts overlapped, Edward would look after the kids.

One of Chuck's earliest childhood memories happened one day when his grandfather was supposed to be supervising. Chuck was 5 when his little sister Trish told him she couldn't find 2-year-old Anne. The two finally spotted the dark-haired toddler at the bottom of the family's swimming pool. Chuck remembers his father driving up to the house, jumping into the water, and pumping his sister's stomach. It was too late.

After the drowning, Chuck's mother took him and Trish to her sister's house in Oklahoma for a few weeks before returning home to Florida. The children's father agonized over his decision not to build a fence around the pool, while their grandfather blamed himself for Anne's death.

"He was absolutely distraught," Chuck remembers.

Chuck's mother eventually became pregnant again with a son, David, and the family moved to Miami. Chuck's dad sold cleaning supplies and taught himself to repair commercial air-conditioning systems. His mom started a new job at Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove.

The last day of junior high in 1972, Chuck got home and sprawled out on the couch. The three kids were home alone on a Friday night, and Chuck flipped on one of his favorite shows, Love, American Style. Suddenly, he heard his sister shouting for him from the laundry room. Thirteen-year-old Trish was engulfed in flames, her arms stretched out to him. He ran outside screaming.

"What I saw was something that no one should ever see — ever, ever, ever," he says.

One of the neighbors, a Spanish-speaking military veteran, dashed inside and emerged less than a minute later "white as a ghost." The man hugged Chuck and held him tightly until the women of the neighborhood came out of their homes in their robes and nightgowns to comfort him. Investigators told the family the fire was ignited by a gas can that fell from a top shelf onto the dryer.

That summer, Chuck refused to let himself fall asleep at night. For hours, he lay in bed with the lights on and played a baseball game in his head, pitch by pitch. He felt safe enough to sleep only when the sun came up and his parents woke in the morning.

"I just thought if I went in a dark place, she would be there saying, 'Why didn't you save me?'" he remembers. "That was for a long time. A long time was like that."

Chuck graduated from high school and attended one semester at Miami-Dade Community College before dropping out to become an auto mechanic. He married, had a son, and then divorced. In 1995, he placed a personal ad in Tropic magazine and met Carol Vecchio, a clinical coordinator at Baptist Hospital. Their first date was at an Ale House. When Vecchio opened the door, she was sold.

"He had a beautiful head of red hair," she remembers. "He looked like a lumberjack... I thought, Oh my God, he's gorgeous."

"I told Carol: 'Honey, I got a bad feeling that Robert's gonna get murdered.'"

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She met Chuck's son, Sean, a few months later and fell even deeper in love with the sharp-witted single dad. She married Chuck in December 1996 and helped raise his son as her own.

Back at Chuck's parents' house in Palmetto Estates, his mother was also raising a child after giving birth for the last time at the age of 48. Robert was a "miracle baby," and his parents treated him as such. "They spoiled him terribly," Carol Berriman says.

He was a rambunctious kid who spent weekends camping and riding ATVs in the Everglades. Sean, who was only five years younger than Robert, grew up playing with him as if they were cousins instead of uncle and nephew. Everyone called Robert "Chunk," one of his favorite characters from the movie The Goonies.

After high school, Robert got a job transporting patients into and out of Mercy Hospital, where his mom had worked since the '70s. He was training to become a nurse, like her. In 2004, he became a father to his only child, a son named Patrick.

With 23 years between Chuck and Robert, it wasn't uncommon for Robert's friends to mistake Chuck for his father. Although they kept different social circles, the two brothers saw each other weekly at family barbecues and rode ATVs together.

"It was just one big, happy family," Chuck says. "I'm not saying we were the Brady Bunch — we were not at all. We were more like Duck Dynasty."

Chuck says he knew his little brother smoked weed and partied a little too hard, sometimes with some rough characters. That's one reason why, in the months leading up to Robert's death, the two brothers had seen less of each other.

"By then, I was my own man," Chuck says. "I had my own son. I didn't want him involved in anything Robert was getting involved in, which would be pot. That was one of my concerns."

But he wasn't seriously worried until Robert made an offhand comment one day about stealing drugs from a guy who had recently gone to prison. Chuck told his brother he didn't need to know that kind of stuff about him.

He still remembers a follow-up conversation he had with his wife a few weeks later.

"I told Carol: 'Honey, I got a bad feeling that Robert's gonna get murdered,'" he says. "Sure enough, not a month later, that's what happened."

click to enlarge Jorge De Los Rios (right) was "Jorgie" to his mother, Doris Ryan (left), but his friends called him "Gump." - PHOTO COURTESY OF DORIS RYAN
Jorge De Los Rios (right) was "Jorgie" to his mother, Doris Ryan (left), but his friends called him "Gump."
Photo courtesy of Doris Ryan

Inside the Richmond Heights townhouse on February 4, 2005, a group of guys sat around smoking and drinking. It was a Friday night, and some planned to head to the Nice & Naughty strip club later. Robert Berriman, who'd been to the house several times to buy weed, was friendly enough with some of the guys that he stayed to hang out.

The home was being rented by Jorge De Los Rios, a 26-year-old aspiring rapper. Born and raised in Kendall, he grew up in a middle-class family going to Cub Scouts and baseball games and on road trips to Disney World with his two younger brothers, Richard and Chris. Jorge's mother, Doris Ryan, called her oldest son "Jorgie," but all of his friends called him "Gump," a nickname he picked up from the movie Forrest Gump, because he could be a little slow on the uptake.

Before the 11th grade, Jorge dropped out of Palmetto Senior High School and began making mixtapes. By night, he partied with friends, and by day, he took inventory at big-box stores, bagged groceries at Publix, and sold tools at Ace Hardware.

Jorge lived with his younger brother Chris at the townhouse, where their mother covered the rent each month. Because she announced her visits in advance, the place always looked spotless when she came over — but that was a façade.

For the two years he lived there, Jorge made extra money dealing small amounts of weed and cocaine to neighbors, friends, and friends of friends. The two-bedroom rental became a gathering place for pregaming, playing videogames, and getting high. Jorge rarely had trouble with customers but kept a shotgun under the bed just in case.

"Drugs basically took over and led to multiple bad decisions," 36-year-old Chris De Los Rios says. "With the drug customers... some of the relationships turned into what you would call friendly, but I did not consider any of those people friends of mine."

Danyan Mangham was one of those customers. Most of the other guys thought he was a little strange when he began stopping by the house in late 2004, but because he was always so quiet, they didn't know much about him.

Mangham held a man at gunpoint, stole his wallet, and hit the guy with the barrel of his shotgun.

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His tumultuous life is documented thoroughly in court records, though. The second of six siblings, Mangham was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital in the fall of 1976. His mother, Tressie, was a certified nursing assistant, and his father, Otis, ran a landscaping business and worked as a school janitor. The family spent Sundays at a Baptist church and weekdays at Bible study.

Mangham grew up playing basketball and football and running track, and when he wasn't busy with sports, he worked for his dad, running the power washer and mowing lawns. As Mangham grew older, he worked part-time at the Cutler Ridge library, a plant nursery, a Little Caesars, and a car-detailing business.

But his childhood was far from idyllic. When he was just 5, Mangham and his older brother were at their grandparents' house with their Uncle Doug when two men knocked on the door. The boys didn't see exactly what happened, but when they went looking for their uncle, they found him dead on the floor with a pitchfork in his chest. Later they learned that their uncle was gay and that his death was almost certainly a hate crime.

More turmoil followed in the years after Doug's murder. When Mangham was 17, his father was arrested on sexual assault charges after two girls at the middle school where he worked accused him of inappropriate touching. Although Otis denied the allegations, he was found guilty, registered as a sex offender, and banned from living in the same house as his children for one year.

News of the arrest went public, and kids at school bullied Mangham and his siblings, who believed their father was innocent. Mangham began smoking weed and lacing his joints with cocaine. During his senior year, he got his girlfriend pregnant and began chain-smoking up to 30 joints a day.

He was arrested at 19, after he held a man at gunpoint, stole his wallet, and hit the guy with the barrel of his shotgun. Mangham was found guilty and eventually sentenced to five-and-a-half years in state prison.

His family says he was never the same after his release in 2001. He began hearing voices in his head, wearing coats in Miami's blazing summers, and walking around with a blank stare in his translucent-hazel eyes.

On at least five occasions, his mother called police and had him Baker Acted or hospitalized, but the stints in mental-health facilities never seemed to help. When he refused to get drug treatment, she kicked him out and he became homeless, sleeping in abandoned cars and shelters in Wynwood and Overtown.

On the streets, Mangham was arrested at least three times for drug possession. But the most serious charge came on Halloween in 2004, after he and his younger brother, Otis, argued with a man at a gas station. Otis sucker-punched him and then Mangham joined in, helping to beat the 45-year-old man so badly he lost a tooth and had to get stitches. Mangham was arrested for aggravated battery; his younger brother, who was one day shy of his 18th birthday, was taken to a juvenile detention center.

Mangham posted a $1,500 bond on Christmas Eve, which was around the time he began buying cocaine from the townhouse in Richmond Heights. When he showed up at the home one day in February and announced his parents had kicked him out, Jorge — always the less suspicious of the brothers — made him a chicken dinner and offered to let him crash there for a bit.

Later that night, Robert Berriman and a few other guys came over to smoke and drink before heading out to the strip club. Sometime after 11 p.m., Mangham fished a smoldering cigarette from an ashtray on the table.

"No, I'm not done smoking it," Berriman told him calmly, witnesses later told police.

Mangham poured himself a drink and disappeared into one of the back bedrooms. Within minutes, he emerged with the 12-gauge shotgun that Jorge De Los Rios kept under the bed and chased Berriman into the backyard.

Inside, the others heard a gunshot as Berriman fell dead by the back fence. Mangham then darted back inside and fired at Jorge De Los Rios, who collapsed between the kitchen and the living room.

Jorge's younger brother, Chris, barricaded himself inside one of the bedrooms with a few of the other guys. Mangham kicked at the door for a few minutes before giving up. Then he picked up the shotgun and shells and shimmied over the back fence and into the night.

click to enlarge Danyan Mangham has been in jail over 13 years, longer than any other inmate currently in Miami-Dade County. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI-DADE CORRECTIONS
Danyan Mangham has been in jail over 13 years, longer than any other inmate currently in Miami-Dade County.
Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade Corrections

A magnetic chalkboard clip hangs beside family wedding photos and a weekly meal-planning list on the double-door fridge in Doris Ryan's house in Homestead. Scrawled with the word "court," the clip holds the postcards that arrive in the mail every few weeks with dates of future hearings.

"I tell people we haven't gone to trial yet, and people are shocked. 'Almost 15 years and you haven't been to trial?'" says Ryan, the mother of the De Los Rios brothers.

In the days after Mangham's rampage, police and family members assumed it wouldn't take long for him to be convicted of the crime — there was credible evidence and plenty of witnesses. Yet the case has stalled for more than a decade for reasons the families still can't understand: Was it red tape? The broken criminal justice system? Were Berriman and De Los Rios not "good enough" victims?

"This thing has been going on so long," Ryan says. "My feeling is, does my child matter? Is he important enough?"

Three days after the shooting, North Miami Beach Police had found Mangham wandering the streets at 3 a.m. and, as a matter of routine, searched his record. To the officers' surprise, Mangham was wanted for two counts of first-degree murder.

Police booked the 28-year-old into jail the morning of February 7, 2005. Chuck and Carol Berriman were on the way to Denny's with their teenage son when they got the news.

"It was a satisfaction and then a wondering: Who is this person that they caught, Danyan Mangham?" Chuck Berriman says. "What were the circumstances?... Why is my brother dead?"

"People are shocked. 'Almost 15 years and you haven't been to trial?'"

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Those answers wouldn't come quickly. As court hearings multiplied and the trial kept getting delayed, months turned into years.

Chris De Los Rios moved home with his mom and swore off cocaine, though he says he continued to drink uncontrollably, fueled by his rage about his brother's violent death.

"The anger that I had toward Danyan was causing me to not have control over myself," he says. "I wanted to get the pain away from the loss of my brother, but I didn't know what I needed to do."

The postcards with court dates continued piling up. For Chuck Berriman, they were just another reminder of everything he had lost.

"Every six weeks, I go to the mailbox, open the mailbox, and there it is, back in my head. I have to relive it all over again," he says. "I look in the corner and make sure it says, 'In custody.'"

Sometimes the postcard triggered a late-night rant on his Facebook page. Other times, he would have a few drinks and leave an angry voicemail for the State Attorney's Office.

"It's gone on way too long," he says. "It's triple the time it should have taken."

Jail records show Mangham has now been in custody longer than any other Miami-Dade inmate. Only nine other inmates awaiting trial have been jailed more than ten years, and unlike Mangham, the majority of those cases involve a codefendant or complicated charges related to racketeering and gang activity.

Mangham's defense attorney, Ed O'Donnell, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office both say Mangham's mental health is a central reason for the delay. While both sympathize with the victims' families, the two sides ultimately blame each other for the holdup.

In an email, prosecutor Abbe Rifkin says the defense "has been very slow" to hand over medical records and other documents needed by the state's committee that decides whether to seek the death penalty. But court records show Mangham's lawyers handed over the bulk of the records five years ago, in 2013.

"This is a very complicated case that also involves some major mental health issues," writes Rifkin, who declined to be interviewed for this story because the case is still pending. "Although it is old, there is a reason for it."

But unlike many inmates with mental-health issues, there's no record of Mangham being found incompetent to proceed to trial, which can delay cases for years while defendants are hospitalized and medicated. In fact, doctors have questioned the severity of Mangham's mental illness, although his lawyers still plan to use an insanity defense at trial.

The earliest records on his mental status come from 2002, when Mangham was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, an acute psychotic episode, and antisocial personality disorder at Community Health of South Dade. In 2003, he was treated at the facility for an unspecified psychosis but refused to take medication, claiming the pills made him feel "crazy" and saying he was "falsely accused" of mental illness.

But an initial intake evaluation after his arrest in February 2005 found Mangham had "no obvious signs of major mental disorder." Four later assessments determined his mental status was within a normal range with no evidence of psychosis.

And after a series of tests in 2017, the state's expert, forensic psychologist Enrique Suarez, also determined there was a "strong probability" that Mangham was exaggerating his symptoms. Suarez pointed out that after the shootings, Mangham had the presence of mind to pick up the shotgun shells and flee the house with the gun, suggesting he knew what he'd done was wrong.

"There is no indication that Mr. Mangham was psychotic prior to, at the time of the incident, or at the time of his arrest," Suarez concluded last year.

But O'Donnell, Mangham's attorney, disagrees. For years, he says, he's tried to engage Mangham in conversation but found him to be essentially "uncommunicative."

"I just want to be able to... see the dude that murdered my brother... go on trial."

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"I think he's insane, legally," O'Donnell says. "I think he belongs in a facility where he can be treated, dealt with, and society can be kept secure. I don't think prison is a place for Danyan Mangham."

The trial delays can also be blamed on prosecutors' indecision about whether to seek a death sentence for Mangham. O'Donnell says that for all these years, he's been unable to adequately prepare for trial without knowing if the death penalty is still on the table.

"Until you find out if it's death or not death... you cannot go to trial," he says.

As recently as this past August 7, State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith said the state had not decided whether to seek a death sentence for Mangham. But just a few weeks after New Times began asking about the case, Rifkin announced the state would not pursue the death penalty.

"At this point, we need to set it for trial," Rifkin told Circuit Judge Stacy Glick on August 24. "Trust me when I tell you I want to try it more than anyone."

Glick tentatively scheduled a trial for February 25, 2019, and the state's victim advocate called Berriman and Ryan to share the news. After years of uncertainty, the decision came as a relief.

"I really don't care about the death penalty," Chris De Los Rios says. "We just want it over with."

For the first time in a long time, Berriman let himself feel hopeful there was an end in sight.

"The waiting time and stuff has all been spin," he says. "I just want to be able to go on February 25 and see the dude that murdered my brother and murdered his friend go on trial and just have justice after this slow, caterpillar, molasses mode."

On a hot August afternoon, Berriman drives his truck away from Richmond Heights, away from the place where his brother was killed. On the way home, he passes Woodlawn South, a 62-acre cemetery with his family's gravesites. So far, there are four burial places: one for Robert; another for his other brother, David, who died of HIV/AIDS; and two for his parents, who both had terminal cancer.

"Supposedly, there's one for me," Berriman says.

After being diagnosed with a serious heart condition called mitral valve regurgitation a few weeks earlier, Berriman sat in his truck in the hospital parking lot and cried to himself. By nature, it was hard for him to avoid thinking about the details of the surgery he would need and the possible complications.

"I'm like the worst patient you can ever have," he says, "'cause I'm a nurse and I know what the deal is."

After years as a bus mechanic for the county, Berriman went back to college and enrolled in nursing school at the age of 51. Two years ago, he started a job at Kindred Hospital working with long-term acute-care patients. It felt like a natural calling after watching his sisters die and feeling guilty about not being with Robert the night of the shooting.

"That ingrained in me that I need to save people," he says. "I go into work every day knowing I'm going to save somebody's life."

In an alternate timeline, he thinks about what life would be like if Robert had been able to jump the fence and escape Mangham's gunfire. But he knows that's just wishful thinking.

"Sometimes you're confronted with something that there's no solution to," he says.

He thinks about that a lot at his job, especially when he works with patients who are comatose.

"I see people in the worst circumstances of their life, you know? Their life is coming to an end," he says. "But you can't look at it like, Man, why do we keep doing it? Why are we wasting blood on this person? It's useless — he's gonna die."

He adds, "To me, I just don't want to give up, so when I see people in that situation, I always talk to them. I always think there's a chance."

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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb