On Thursday, March 18, police officers found a spring breaker from Pennsylvania dead in a Miami Beach hotel room. As the Miami Herald first reported, two men are accused of drugging the woman, raping her, then stealing her credit cards so they could keep partying on South Beach. Miami Beach police have arrested the men on charges of sexual battery, burglary with battery, petty theft, and fraudulent use of a credit card.
Today at 5 p.m., a vigil will honor the life of 24-year-old Christine Englehardt across from the site where she had her final moments: the Albion Hotel, 1650 James Ave.
"It's such a terrible injustice that happened to this poor young woman," says Nick D'Annunzio, a Miami Beach resident, public relations company owner, and vigil organizer. "This is someone's daughter, and it could have been anyone's daughter, sister, or best friend. It's so close to home because it happened in our community."
D'Annunzio says organizers will provide flowers and candles. Whoever attends is encouraged to bring their own flowers, too. Masks are required, and social distancing will be enforced, D'Annunzio promises.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office is still investigating the cause of Englehardt's death. The Herald reports that investigators are determining whether she died of an overdose from whatever drug the men allegedly gave her. If that proves to be the case, they may face additional charges.
According to arrest reports, Miami Beach police reviewed hotel surveillance footage that showed two men walking into the lobby with Englehardt at 1 a.m. on March 18. A little more than half an hour later, they left. One of them, later identified as 21-year-old Evoire Collier, tried to cover his face from the hotel cameras.
Police spotted Collier at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive on March 20, took him into custody, and questioned him. Collier was wearing the same pants as he was seen wearing on video, according to an arrest report.
Collier told police that he and the other man, 24-year-old Dorian Taylor, had met Englehardt at a restaurant, and that Taylor gave Englehardt a "green pill" as they walked along Ocean Drive. Collier said "that he went along with [Taylor] as they planned to have sex with the victim," the report reads
Police found Taylor around Lincoln Road and Meridian Avenue on March 21and arrested him.
South Beach has drawn spring-break crowds of mostly young, mostly Black visitors for years. The city's handling of the influx has drawn scrutiny from residents who say leaders don't do enough to control the crowds, business leaders who look down on the "demographic" of visitors, and civic groups that accuse Miami Beach of being hostile toward Black tourists. The contention has turned holidays like spring break and Memorial Day into a political powder keg.
D'Annunzio says he's seen racist comments on social media about Collier and Taylor, both of whom are Black. He says he hopes the event will be well-attended and diverse, and that it'll bring unity. He also hopes local politicians and leaders will attend.
"This is a call to action to speak to our lawmakers and make the city a safer environment," he says. "And also to say as a community that we won't settle for this. We can't accept this happening to women in our backyard, whether it's a tourist or someone who lives here."
D'Annunzio has invited local social-justice groups, including Dream Defenders, the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, the Urban League, Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, and South Florida People of Color, to join.
He says he also spoke to Englehardt's mother about the event and that she expressed her support.
"Christine's mother will be sending us a message to share, so we'll relay that," he says.
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