Murder in the City Beautiful

A Handful of Horror Tales for Halloween

By Patrick Alexander

October 2019

October is the time of year when the elusive Florida bonneted bats swarm beneath the banyan trees of Granada Golf Course, and swarms of little kids gather in their batman outfits and red riding hood capes to go trick-or-treating. As All Hallows’ Eve approaches, it is time for adults to gather in the fading daylight and remind each other of the ghastly and grisly murders which haunt the history of Coral Gables. Our first tale is the murder of Dora Suggs, that took place in what was then a desolate backcountry of Coral Gables called The Devil’s Den.

Dora Suggs and The Devil’s Den

Long before George Merrick turned the wilderness west of Coconut Grove into the city of Coral Gables, various hardy souls, known as homesteaders, lived on isolated farms out in the backcountry. In December 1905, one of these souls, Dora Suggs, rode her mule and wagon into Coconut Grove (or Cocoanut Grove as it was then spelled) to buy Christmas provisions for her husband Gideon and their children. That was the last time her family saw her alive.

Returning from Coconut Grove, in the gathering winter twilight, she was riding through an especially desolate stretch of countryside known as “The Devil’s Den,” when she was dragged from her carriage and assaulted. These days, The Devil’s Den is a place of manicured lawns and gracious single family homes at the intersection of Granada Boulevard and Blue Road near Riviera Country Club. But in those days, it was a narrow, muddy track that followed a creek, through a dark grove of Florida slash pines and palmettos.

The unaccompanied wagon and mule arrived back at the Suggs’ homestead and her husband immediately organized a search party. Her body was found in The Devil’s Den at 10 p.m.; she had been brutally raped and mutilated. Her skull had been crushed in with rocks. Footprints around the body showed that her assailant wore size 12 boots, but there were no other clues.

The following day, Edward (Cady) Brown was arrested for Dora Suggs’ murder. The main evidence against him appears to be that he was black. On being sentenced to death he said, “I don’t know how they can hang a man for something he knows nothing about.” Within just six months he was charged, tried, found guilty and hanged. Despite his neck being broken by the fall, he continued to show signs of life and his boots continued to kick for a further 18 and a half minutes. His boots were a size 10.

Dora Suggs is buried in Coral Gables’ historic Pinewood Cemetery where her tombstone reads “1872 – December 18, 1905. Died tragically at The Devil’s Den, Wife of Gideon David Suggs.”

Fatty Walsh, the Ghost of the Biltmore

The most famous murder in the City Beautiful was of course that of Thomas “Fatty” Walsh, a well-known New York mobster.

Walsh was a close associate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Jack “Legs” Diamond and “Dutch” Schultz with whom he shared various business interests. Earlier in his career, Mr. Walsh had been employed as a bodyguard for Arnold Rothstein, the legendary gangster famous for fixing the 1919 World Series. Ironically, Walsh was also suspected of murdering Rothstein over a gambling debt in 1928.

But, on March 4, 1929, less than a year after Rothstein’s assassination, Walsh had his own problems with a gambling debt. The details remain murky, but Walsh appears to have been running a card game in a Prohibition-era speakeasy which he was operating from his suite on the 13th floor of the Biltmore Hotel. The suite is commonly known as the Al Capone Suite, named after another of Mr. Walsh’s business associates who shared his affection for the Coral Gables hotel. Following a possible misunderstanding over cards played, money owed or a lady disrespected, Walsh was shot dead by a rival underworld figure, Edward Wilson, who then fled to Cuba.

Possibly because his murder remained unpunished, the ghost of “Fatty” Walsh continues to haunt the hotel, especially on the 13th floor. During his lifetime, Mr. Walsh was known as a ladies man, which perhaps explains why the elevator, unexpectedly and unbidden, often delivers attractive young women to the 13th floor. One young couple pressed the button for the fourth floor where they were staying, but arrived at the 13th floor for no reason. No sooner had the wife stepped out than the elevator slammed shut and returned her husband to the hotel lobby.

Strange sounds in the 13th floor suite, lights turning on or off, the elevator behaving erratically are all signs that “Fatty” Walsh is restless and seeks company.

Maggie Locascio and the Brother-in-Law

If the 20th century in Coral Gables had a bloody beginning with the murder of Dora Suggs, so too did the 21st century. On October 30, 2001 (the day before Halloween), Maggie Locascio drove her Mercedes into the garage of her home at 2806 Granada Blvd., opposite the DeSoto Plaza fountain and just a few blocks from “Fatty” Walsh’s Biltmore Hotel. Returning home with a new hairstyle and a fresh manicure, she was about to start a whole new phase in her life. The following day, she was due to appear in court to end her marriage of 28 years. As part of the divorce settlement, the court would award her 50 percent of her husband’s assets; however, being a CPA, Maggie knew that her husband, Edward Sr., had declared only a small portion of his vast fortune. In court the following day she was scheduled to reveal to the judge where all the other millions were hidden. Unfortunately, she never made it to court. Her dead body was found sprawled on the kitchen floor. Her head had been brutally bludgeoned, and her body badly kicked and repeatedly stabbed. There was blood everywhere. Her husband lived in a condo on Miami Beach and the security cameras showed him popping out of his condo for no more than a few moments throughout the day and night of the murder. His alibi could not be more solid and the following day, in court, he demanded that the divorce proceedings be dismissed and all his assets be unfrozen and returned.

Maggie Locascio was brutally murdered in this upscale residence at 2806 Granada Blvd.

Eventually, blood samples, fingerprints, DNA swabs and a bag full of evidence proved that the murder was committed by Edward’s estranged younger brother Michael who lived in Charlotte N.C., was unemployed and addicted to pills. The two brothers had not made contact for several years. But then, in the six weeks prior to the murder, they exchanged 39 phone conversations. The condo security camera that proved Edward’s alibi also showed his blood-spattered brother, Michael, visiting him just two hours after the murder.

Michael was quickly arrested, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Despite constant pressure on the authorities from his son, Edward Jr., it was not till many years later that Edward Sr. was finally charged as co-conspirator and the mastermind of the murder. The evidence was entirely circumstantial; the trial was lengthy and included one of those “only in Miami” moments when it was revealed that the lead detective had been sleeping with one of the major witnesses. Despite the lack of a smoking gun, Edward Locascio Sr. was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced, like his brother, to life in prison.

Years later, in a prison interview, Edward Sr. argued that he and his brother had been framed by his own 20-year-old son, Edward Jr., who would now inherit the mansion on Granada Blvd. as well as all the family millions. For almost 20 years following the murder, the house remained empty until the court recently ordered it sold at auction. It has now been fully restored and the blood stains finally removed.

Susan Sutton and the Bad Son

Just a couple of years later, in August 2004, another murder case featured a father and son facing each other in a courtroom. The cases were also similar in their focus on security cameras. In each case the security camera provided a rock solid alibi but, ironically, the cameras also provided evidence of guilt.

John Sutton, a well-respected Coral Gables lawyer, and his wife Susan had hosted a birthday party in their home on Orduna Drive, off Granada Blvd. in the area once known as The Devil’s Den – where Dora Suggs had been brutally murdered exactly 100 years earlier.

Bridge to The Devil’s Den

Guests at the party included their son Christopher, his girlfriend Juliette, and John’s law partner, Teddy Montoto. Soon after the guests left, and after John and Susan retired to their separate bedrooms, somebody entered the house and shot both of them where they lay. Susan died immediately but her husband, seriously wounded and blinded, eventually survived. Moments after police reached the house, Teddy Montoto also arrived. He told police he had been on the phone with Susan when he heard shots. He also told police that he was an expert marksman and had spent the day at target practice with his gun. The police tested his gun and gave Montoto a polygraph test. His gun passed the test, but he did not. After further questioning, Montoto confessed that he and Susan had been conducting a passionate affair.

Another possible suspect was the couple’s 25-year-old son, Christopher. Christopher still resented his parents for sending him to a brutal reform school as a teenager 10 years previously. Christopher had a long history of violent behavior, death threats, and even a journal entry describing how to get hold of his parent’s wealth. At his mother’s funeral, Christopher seemed to know details of the crime known only to the police. However, at the time of the murder, Christopher and his girlfriend were both attending a late-night movie, as proved by the theater’s security cameras. It seemed to be a solid alibi.

However, the security cameras also showed Christopher leaving the cinema around midnight and immediately calling someone on his cellphone. Phone records showed that the person he called, and whom he had called 331 times over the previous few days, was Garrett Kopp. Police then discovered that Kopp had been arrested less than 24 hours after the murder for threatening somebody with a gun. Tests soon proved it was the same Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol that had killed Susan Sutton. After six hours of intense interrogation, Kopp confessed to the murders and said he had been hired by Christopher, who wanted his parents dead.

During the lengthy and emotional trial it was shown that Christopher and Kopp were longtime dope-dealing buddies. It was also shown that Christopher had purchased the gun and had drawn Kopp a plan of the house, marking his parent’s bedrooms. His girlfriend Juliette described how Christopher had spent five years talking about killing his parents and constantly demanding money from them.After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury found Christopher guilty of first-degree murder. Before sentencing, an emotional John Sutton addressed the court but did not request leniency for his son.

“Regardless of the result, this is a bad case,” he said. “I lost Susan. I lost Christopher long before that. I lost my eyesight…” Asked if he still loved Christopher, the father told the court, “I would have to say that I do not. And it’s hard…”

Christopher is serving life without the possibility of parole and Kopp will not be eligible for release till 2035.

On Halloween, if you dare to walk alone at night across Granada Golf Course – our village green in the center of town – not only will you catch glimpses of foxes and bats beneath the trees, but you may even hear the faint, wild sounds of the pipes of the Great God Pan himself. The sound should remind us that our sophisticated City Beautiful is less than 100 years old, and the primitive memories of nature, red in tooth and claw, lie not far below the surface. It would appear that despite all the manicured lawns and elegant mansions on Granada Boulevard, the dark shadows of The Devil’s Den still linger to this day. Boo!

In celebration of Halloween, author Patrick Alexander traces backwards through a history of unusual murders that took place in Miami and Coral Gables. His book, “Miami Murders Most Foul,” is available at Books & Books for $9.95