You could tell it was going to be a huge party because almost nobody had heard of the kid who was throwing it. Word was that his name was Tyler Hadley, he attended Port St. Lucie High, and, most crucially, his parents were out of town. Where exactly Tyler's parents had traveled, or how far, no one seemed to know.
Tyler had been telling his friends all week that he was going to have a party, but nobody believed him. He'd never thrown a party before, and it was impossible to believe that his parents, who had been increasingly strict with him lately, would give their consent. When his friends asked whether the party was still on, Tyler replied, "I'm working on it." They assumed that meant it was off. At 11:25 a.m. on Saturday, July 16, 2011, Hadley received a Facebook message from his friend Antonio Ramirez.
Tyler Hadley: sup bra
Antonio Ramirez: Chillen what you doin tonight?
Tyler Hadley: tryin to have a party at my crib
Antonio Ramirez: Your parents ain't home?
Tyler Hadley: nope
Tyler Hadley: well their leasvin soon
At 1:15 p.m. Tyler posted a message on his Facebook wall:
party at my crib tonight…maybe
No one was convinced by this, but at 8:15 p.m., Tyler posted another message:
party at my house hmu
Still his friends remained incredulous.
Ashley Haze messaged: "WHAO what what if your parents come home"
"they won't," replied Tyler. "trust me."
The party was just getting started when Mike Young arrived with 10 or so of his friends around 11:30 p.m. Mike, a popular, athletic junior, knew the host only by sight. Tyler was distinctive looking, tall and skinny, nearly cadaverous at six foot one and 160 pounds. At school he was quiet, approaching nonverbal, though occasionally prone to sudden, nonsensical outbursts in class. His friends — potheads, juvenile delinquents, pill poppers — were not the type of kids Mike liked to associate with. But it was a warm summer evening in July and there was absolutely nothing else going on in Port St. Lucie. There never was anything going on in Port St. Lucie. The city, 40 miles north of West Palm Beach, was a tomb, designed for the soon-to-be-entombed. It had half a dozen golf courses, twice as many assisted-living homes, seven funeral homes, two bingo halls and a shuffleboard club. There was no access to the beach, no downtown, and no place for teenagers to hang out at night other than a giant arcade called Superplay USA, which advertises itself as a State-of-the-Art Family Playground. Even the parks were closed at night. Mike and his friends had already spent three hours killing time at the mall in Stuart, 20 minutes down the coast, and another hour at McDonald's. So they figured they might as well check out the Hadley party.
Tyler answered the door wearing a long black T-shirt, black Dickies and black Nike Air Force high-top sneakers. He seemed anxious, or at least as anxious as you can be while on Ecstasy. It was clear that Tyler was rolling. His eyes were large and white, his pupils expanded, and he kept rubbing his hands together, nervously clenching his fists.
"I don't want no one smoking inside," said Tyler. "It's my parents' house."
Before long there were 60 kids in the house. Most of them had no idea who Tyler was. They draped themselves over the couches, played beer pong on the dining table, scrounged for food in the kitchen cupboards and gathered in packs out front, tossing empty cans onto the lawn. In the living room, when bottles fell to the floor and shattered, kids laughed. Cigarettes were extinguished on the rug, the kitchen counter, the wall. Tyler seemed less concerned with the destruction of his home than with the noise. If the neighbors got alarmed, they might call the police.
"Actually, just stay in the house," said Tyler to nobody in particular. "You can smoke inside. I don't care."
Mike was talking with some girls on the couch when a very drunk skater kid — he looked like one of Tyler's friends — ambled over.
"I smell dead people," said the skater, giggling.
Mike looked up.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, I don't know. Some people are smoking, that's all."
"All right, dude. Whatever."
The skater, laughing, wandered off.
A large crowd had gathered around the beer pong table. The table was directly next to the family computer, where kids took turns playing songs on YouTube. Mike cued up Wiz Khalifa's "No Sleep" and a couple of tracks from a Lil Wayne mixtape, "Tunechi's Back" and "Racks." The computer area was even filthier than the rest of the house. The white keyboard was tacky with brownish dried liquid — beer, maybe, or Coke. Nobody looked too closely.
Jose Erazo, a slight, soft-spoken 17-year-old with straight black hair combed at an angle over his forehead, was playing beer pong when he heard someone say, "Oh, he killed his parents." Everyone laughed. Jose won 15 straight games of beer pong.
People kept asking Tyler where his parents were.
"They went to Georgia," he told Mark Andrews.
"They're in Orlando," he told Ryan Stonesifer.
"They don't live here," Tyler told Richard Wouters. "This is my house."
Mark Andrews, 21, met Tyler 11 years ago, when Mark's family moved to Port St. Lucie. Tyler and Mark's younger brothers were friends, and the families lived down the street from each other. When Tyler was 10 years old, he showed up at the Andrews' house after a fight with his mother. He vowed that he would kill his parents. Mark told Tyler that all parents pissed off their kids and Tyler, calming down, agreed. The two boys laughed about it.
Tyler's friend Markey Phillips missed the party because he was visiting his grandparents in Chicago that weekend, but he had hung out with Tyler two nights earlier, playing video games and watching television at Markey's house. Tyler had "seemed pretty fine" that night. But two weeks before that they had been hanging out at Markey's house when Tyler blurted out, in the middle of a conversation, that he "wanted to kill his parents and have a big party after." Nobody had ever done that before, Tyler said — throw a huge party with the bodies still in the house.
"That's crazy," said Markey. He figured Tyler was trying to make a joke. Nobody ever took Tyler seriously when he talked about killing his parents. In a Facebook chat with his friend Mercedes Marko on July 2, 2011 — two weeks before the party — Tyler complained that his mother had confiscated his cell phone.
Tyler Hadley: lol yup shes a cunt fa sho i might kill her
Mercedes Maxine Marko: Omg no jail!! Or I mean prison! Lol
Tyler Hadley: oh well <3
Then there was his friend Matthew Nobile, 17, a junior at Port St. Lucie High School, who had this exchange with Tyler at 9:40 a.m. on the morning of the party:
Matt Nobile: did u do it
Tyler Hadley: no but im gonna
Matt Nobile: bet?
Matt Nobile: u really should now
Matt Nobile: do it
Tyler Hadley: dont worry i am
Tyler Hadley: then im having a party
Matt Nobile: yeah party time nigga!
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