Around 1 a.m., Tyler asked his friend Michael Mandell to walk outside so that they could speak privately. Tyler and Michael had been best friends since they were eight years old, and for much of the party they had sat together, Michael chatting with other friends, Tyler staring into the middle distance.
They walked to the stop sign at the end of the block, and when they got there, Tyler turned to Michael. "I killed my parents," he said.
"Michael, I'm being real. I'm not lying to you. If you look closely enough, you can see signs." He told Michael to look in the driveway.
Michael saw that the two cars closest to the garage were a black Toyota Tacoma truck that belonged to Tyler's father, and his mother's red Ford Expedition. If Tyler's parents weren't home, why were their cars there?
Michael still couldn't believe it, so Tyler told him to look inside the garage. After making sure that nobody was watching, Michael slipped into the garage and turned on the light. He saw a bloody shoe print and immediately retreated, shutting the door behind him.
Tyler led Michael to the master bedroom, where there were traces of blood on the door. Tyler unlocked the door and opened it. Michael saw dining-room chairs and blood-soaked towels stacked in a huge pile. At the bottom of the pile, emerging from the debris, lay a thick white leg.
Tyler told Michael what had happened. That afternoon, shortly before five, Tyler had hid his parents' cell phones so that they couldn't call for help. He listened to "Feel Lucky," a song by the rapper Lil Boosie, to psych himself up. He took three pills of Ecstasy, because he worried that he couldn't kill his parents while "sober." In the garage he found a claw hammer. Then he returned to the house. He stood behind his mother while she worked at the family computer. For a full five minutes he stood there, thinking about what he was about to do. Then he raised the claw end of the hammer and brought it down on Mary Jo's head.
"Why?" she screamed. "Why?"
Hearing his wife's screams, Blake Hadley ran out of the master bedroom. He was a big man — six foot one, 300 pounds — but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. Father and son locked eyes for several moments.
"Why?" asked Blake Hadley.
"Why the fuck not?" shouted Tyler. He kept repeating this question while he beat his father to death with the claw end of the hammer. Tyler pantomimed swinging the hammer for Michael.
When it was over, Tyler said, he wrapped towels around his parents' heads and dragged them into the master bedroom. The bodies lay side-by-side, face down, the hammer on the ground between them. It took three hours to clean up all the blood and gore — much longer than Tyler had anticipated. He threw every piece of incriminating evidence he could find into the bedroom, burying the corpses beneath a pile of broken dishes, shattered glass, bloody towels and pillowcases, books, a coffee table, a sponge mop, Clorox wipes and a canister of coffee grounds. He took a shower and then, he told Michael, he stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and laughed.
Max Mazer, a friend of Tyler's, was standing in the hall outside the master bedroom when he saw Michael rush from the room, slamming the door behind him. Michael looked deranged, said Max, like "he was looking over both shoulders."
But Michael didn't leave the party. He stayed for another 45 minutes, posing for selfies with Tyler. In one photo, taken with Michael's cell phone, the two best friends stand in what appears to be the garage. Both boys wear their brown hair in close crew cuts. Michael's expression is stern, defiant. Tyler raises an orange plastic cup. His mouth is slightly twisted, his eyes tense. His face is a mixture of pain, despair, fear, horror.
Close to 2 a.m., somebody stood up and announced that there was another house party being thrown by a neighbor of Mike Young's. Kids began running outside, tossing their drinks onto the grass, opening car doors. Tyler ran out after them. Joshua Korte had just settled into his car when someone slammed on the driver's side window. It was Tyler.
"Where is everybody going?" he yelled.
Josh rolled down the window and explained they were going to another party.
"Oh," said Tyler, relieved. "All right." When asked later to describe Tyler's expression, Joshua said, "He was just like, blank face. Like he had a blank face on."
Fourteen cars peeled out of Tyler's neighborhood. The caravan went up Prima Vista to Bayshore, windows open, Wiz Khalifa blasting, cars weaving down the wide boulevard. Finally they reached their destination. The house was dark and quiet. A girl came outside in her pajamas. She wasn't having a party. It was just a rumor.
The commotion of the departing cars was finally too much for Tyler's neighbors. Raeann Wallace, who lived next door, had known Tyler since he was born. She was fond of the Hadleys, and of Tyler. "He seemed like a happy kid," she says. "Very respectful, polite." He liked to skateboard, ride his bike, toss a football in the street. When she asked him not to throw the ball too close to her car, he said, "Yes, ma'am." When she and her husband went away for the weekend, she gave Tyler a few bucks to keep watch over her house.
Tyler had always seemed close to his parents. As a boy he would wait up late into the evenings for his father to return home from working the night shift at the power plant, and father and son would play basketball for hours in the driveway, often until midnight. On weekends Wallace would hear the Hadleys splashing and laughing in the family's backyard pool.
But once Tyler entered high school, a silence descended over the Hadley property. Tyler had always been quiet, and difficult to read, but now he seemed eccentric, unpredictable, troubled. "He had a bizarre personality," says Cameron Adams. "Really hyper. He'd always try to pull a crowd. In the middle of a lesson, he would start laughing. He would just blurt out stuff." Once, in the middle of biology class, he started mooing loudly, like a cow.
Another neighbor, DeeDee Maynard, refused to allow her son to play with Tyler after she caught Tyler, as a young teen, smoking in the nearby River Park Wildlife Preserve with other neighborhood boys. Worried that they might accidentally start a forest fire, she confronted Tyler's mother. Mary Jo seemed unconcerned.
"My son doesn't smoke," she said.
"I saw him smoking," Maynard reported.
"Well," said Mary Jo. "You know Tyler."
Two weeks later Tyler lit the River Park Wildlife Preserve on fire. He and several other boys dragged an abandoned couch into the clearing, doused it with gasoline they had siphoned at the local Sunoco, and dropped a match. The fire department had to be called, but the kids got off with a warning. The Hadleys seemed to have lost control of their youngest son.
"It was a significant-sized fire," says Donna Montero, whose swimming pool abuts the Hadleys' pool. "They just did it for kicks. I guess there's nothing else to do here. I would've thought he'd have been the type that probably would have hurt animals just for the heck of it. But I certainly would have never got the feeling that he would have been capable of murdering anybody. Let alone his parents."
In late April, 10 weeks before his party, Tyler got into a fight at a friend's house and was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery. Because he had a juvenile record, having previously been convicted of burglary, he was sentenced to a week at St. Lucie County Jail, followed by two weeks of house arrest. Mary Jo confiscated his cell phone, forcing Tyler to rely on Facebook to communicate with his friends:
TYLER HADLEY: dont text me about drugs
ISADORA GASCHO: what happen?
TYLER HADLEY: my mom has it because I got arrested on Monday and shes flippin shit..i just got out today.
ISADORA GASCHO: oh shit…
TYLER HADLEY: FUCKIN SHIT SUCCKKKKEEEDD
ISADORA GASCHO: u bad kidd
TYLER HADLEY: Just kidding…its a pirates life for me
ISADORA GASCHO: lmao
ISADORA GASCHO: wtf r u talking about??
TYLER HADLEY: I DONT FUCKING ASSOCIATE WITH NON PIRATES
ISADORA GASCHO: whattt??
TYLER HADLEY: ok im done with all the nautical nonsense
ISADORA GASCHO: :-)
ISADORA GASCHO: ur so sillyyy
ISADORA GASCHO: what r u doing?
TYLER HADLEY: nothing, considering suicide
ISADORA GASCHO: why???
TYLER HADLEY: ummm…because i wanna die i guess?
TYLER HADLEY: what other reasons are there?
ISADORA GASCHO: are you being serious?
TYLER HADLEY: yes
TYLER HADLEY: ...I do wanna die sometimes
ISADORA GASCHO: dont dieee
ISADORA GASCHO: smoke a bowl whenever ur down :P
TYLER HADLEY: I used to, now I drink alot when im depressed
TYLER HADLEY: IT FILLS THE EMPTINESS INSIDE ME
ISADORA GASCHO: ur quite a character ;P
TYLER HADLEY: yes but all my smiles are fake
There were still moments, however, when the old Tyler would emerge. One of Tyler's best friends, Ryan Stonesifer, described Tyler's relationship with his mother as "really close." Tyler told Ryan about a recent fight with Mary Jo, in which Tyler had told her to shut up. He felt so badly about it that he apologized immediately. He told his mother he was sorry for yelling at her.
On Mother's Day, Tyler chatted on Facebook with his friend Mercedes Marko. Tyler told her about his house arrest.
MERCEDES MAXINE MARKO: im sad…. That sucks dude…is your mom pissed..?? lol
TYLER HADLEY: no shes disappointed…I feel bad, she was crying
MERCEDES MAXINE MARKO: aww…did you do anything for her today…its mothers day.
TYLER HADLEY: yeaa me and my brother took her out to eat and what not haha
MERCEDES MAXINE MARKO: awwwwwww..thats so nice lol
TYLER HADLEY: lol I know. IT WAS A NICE DAY
On a Friday night in June, one month before the party, Tyler came home, in his words, "smashed as fuck" after a night during which he had urinated on his friend Desiree Gerhard's bed. Mary Jo admitted him to New Horizons, a mental health clinic. Tyler was forced to attend counseling daily. In order to commit Tyler, Mary Jo invoked the Baker Act, which under Florida law allows for parents to commit their children, if under the age of 18, to involuntary psychiatric treatment. The act is only used if it is deemed a "substantial likelihood" that, without intervention, the child will cause "serious bodily harm" to himself or others in the near future. When a co-worker asked if Mary Jo worried whether Tyler might ever hurt her, Mary Jo said she was only worried that Tyler might hurt himself. Mary Jo suffered from depression, and worried that her son might suffer from it as well. He had received counseling for depression in the past, as well as for an eating disorder and poor self-esteem. In fact Mary Jo had Tyler take injections of human growth hormone during his early adolescence because she thought it might boost his confidence. She didn't want him teased in school for being short and chubby.
Just two weeks before the party, however, Mary Jo had told friends that Tyler "was over the hurdle." She was "so happy" about Tyler's improvement, said one friend. "She really felt he was back to himself."
The weekend before the party, Tyler had traveled with his father and grandfather to a family reunion in Georgia. "It was a time for us to enjoy family from Indiana, Minnesota and Florida," recalls his grandfather, Maurice Hadley. "I didn't see any indication there were any problems between Tyler and his parents."
The night before the party, the Hadleys had gone out to dinner as a family. On the way they stopped at the Circle K, where Tyler ran into his friend Cameron Adams. Tyler appeared to be in a good mood.
"How are your mom and dad doing?" asked Cameron.
"Oh," said Tyler quietly. "They're all right."
Cameron mentioned that it was his birthday. He and his girlfriend were going to Benihana's.
"Happy birthday!" said Tyler. "Come to my house tomorrow, I'm having a party. We'll celebrate."
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