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Tyler Hadley's Killer Party

Page 4 of 4

At 2:00 a.m., as the caravan of cars tore out of the driveway of the Hadley house, revving their engines and blasting their music, Raeann Wallace got fed up. She couldn't understand why Tyler was throwing such a noisy party, or why his parents would allow it. When a group of boys from the party drifted on to her front lawn and began peering into her window, she called the police.

Two officers from the Port St. Lucie Police Department arrived at the Hadley residence within minutes. By that point there were fewer than 20 people left at the party. When the officers rang the bell, Tyler told everyone to be quiet and hide in his room. Then he opened the door.

The cops explained that there had been noise complaints. Tyler talked to them for a few moments.

The cops left, and the party started again.

By 2:30 a.m. Tyler's friends began to filter back to the party. It was clear now that something was wrong with Tyler. Michael Mandell, before leaving, had grabbed 10 Percocet pills that Tyler was going to use to commit suicide, and hid them in a hall closet.

When a 16-year-old cheerleader showed up with two girlfriends, Tyler slammed the door behind them as soon as they entered the house and began checking the windows, closing the blinds as if someone were out to get him. He kept touching his hair and pacing across the living room. "The party was fun," he told his friend David Garcia. "I might have another one tomorrow night." Then he said that he "might be going away for a while."

"Are you moving? Or vacation?"

"Just going away," said Tyler.

"Are you coming back?"

"I don't know because I'm thinking about killing myself."

Tyler turned the lights off in the front rooms to avoid attracting any further attention from the cops. Ryan Stonesifer, before he left at 3 a.m., saw Tyler making himself a sandwich in the dark.

At 4:40 a.m., Tyler posted another message to his Facebook wall:

party at my house again hmu

The party might have gone on forever if the police hadn't, at that very moment, been standing outside his front door. Michael Mandell had called the Crimestoppers hotline. He'd told them everything.

Port St. Lucie Police at the home of Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley in Port St. Lucie.
Police at the home of Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley in Port St. Lucie.
AP Photo/The Stuart News, Deborah Silver

Officers Adrian Zamoyski and Charles Greene were dispatched to 371 NE Granduer Avenue at 4:32 a.m. They parked across the street. There were three cars in front of the house: a cream-colored Lincoln, a black Toyota Tacoma truck, and a red Ford Expedition. They ran the plates. The first car was registered to Tyler Hadley, the others to his parents.

As the officers walked up the driveway they heard someone talking inside the house. Officer Greene saw, through the front bay window, the shadow of a person walking back and forth. Greene knelt by the window and peered through the blinds. Tyler was pacing across the living room, talking to himself, with "a very disturbing look on his face," Greene would write in his police report. "His eyes were very wide and he was not blinking." Tyler grabbed a stack of books from a bookshelf near the front door and marched them into the back bedroom. After saying something unintelligible, he dumped the books on the floor "in a frantic manner." Tyler repeated this exercise twice more, returning for a second and third stack of books. Finally Greene knocked on the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer, but Greene could see Hadley through the window, walking away from the door. The rest of the lights in the house went off. Then Hadley opened the door.

He was wearing a black shirt and black shorts, and his left hand was hidden behind his back. Officer Zamoyski drew his gun. He ordered Hadley to put up his hands and step out of the house. The officers checked him for weapons, then ordered him to the ground and handcuffed him.

They asked whether any adults were home. Tyler said no. He seemed frantic, incoherent, annoyed. His pupils were very large.

"I know I'm going to Rock Road," he told Officer Greene, referring to the address of the St. Lucie County Jail. "So just take me."

Leaving Tyler shackled in the driveway, the officers entered the house.

"You can't go in there," Tyler shouted after them. "Don't go in there!"

Empty beer bottles and red plastic Solo cups were everywhere, on the counters and floors. There were pots and pans on the kitchen counter. Tyler's bedroom floor was littered with unraveled cigars. On his bed were about 15 empty beer bottles and a woman's purse. The furniture in his brother's old bedroom was turned over, and the floor was covered with clothing and bedding. Locked inside a closet they found a black Labrador.

The cops passed through the kitchen and approached the master bedroom. It was locked. The officers noticed streaks of dried blood on the frame and baseboards. They forced the knob. The door opened. 

Blake Hadley
Florida State Attorney's Office

The funeral service for the Hadleys was attended by nearly a thousand people. Two coffins lay in front of the altar. Mary Jo Hadley was a committed Catholic; she served as a lector at the St. Lucie Catholic Church and taught the Rite of Christian Initiation to converts. On the Sunday morning that her body was found, she was supposed to have read at morning mass from the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, an ode to the empowering qualities of love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

At the reception following the service, Raeann Wallace approached Ryan Hadley, Tyler's older brother. Ryan, who was then 23 , had planned to return to Port St. Lucie after graduating from college to work alongside his father at the power plant. He mentioned that he was going to St. Lucie County prison in Fort Pierce that night to visit his brother. It would be the first time the brothers had seen each other since the murders.

"It's what my parents would want me to do," Ryan said. "They wouldn't want me to abandon him. I don't know what I'm going to say. I'll probably just sit there and cry."

Tyler's friends struggled to understand his motivation. But there was a general sense that what happened to Tyler might have happened to any of them. One 18-year-old girl who attended the party but knew him only slightly, blamed his parents.

"He was under a lot of pressure and like his parents would never let him be himself and honestly, I think that they caused everything that just happened. . . His parents always expected him to be someone else that he wasn't and that's not right. Anything Tyler would do, he'd be wrong for it. . . he just broke. Honestly he got crazy 'cause of it. If you have that much hate for somebody then you actually would do something like that."

Tyler had told some of his friends, including Michael, that his father had, in the past, punched him in the face. But even if this were true, Michael couldn't believe that this "could lead to him murdering them." Tyler also told his friend Markey that Blake "wasn't his real dad." Markey was amazed to find out, during a police interview, that Tyler had been lying.

The most common rationale advanced by his friends was "drugs." "We all make mistakes when we on them jiggers," said Markey. Tyler, Markey wrote in a statement, "drank heavily and smoked pot and popped pills like a mad man." There were a lot of pills. "All kinds," said his friend David Garcia. "Monkeys, beans, xanys, bars, French-fries-yellow xanys." Tyler also took Percocet and oxycontin, known among teens in Port St. Lucie as "blues." And he did Ecstasy — once or twice, according to a friend. But none of these drugs induce violent behavior, and they are used by hundreds of other kids in town, including most of those who attended Tyler's party.

There might have been other kinds of pills in his body, however. When cops searched the house, they found prescription bottles in Tyler's name for Hydroxyzine, a relatively mild anti-anxiety medication, as well as Citalopram, an anti-depressant that can increase the risk of suicide in adolescents and young adults. In a letter from jail to his grandparents, Tyler referred to one psychiatric pill in particular, without mentioning its name. "I wish I never started taking that damn pill," he wrote. "None of this would ever of happened." In a letter to a friend, he said, "I regret everything I did. I swear it's those drugs man." But Tyler had also told Michael that he had purposefully waited for his brother to move out before he killed his parents. That was more than six weeks earlier. And a fellow inmate later testified that Tyler claimed he'd begun to plan the murder — and the party — three weeks before it happened. "You should have come to the party," Tyler told the inmate, according to testimony. "It was awesome."

At the St. Lucie County Jail Tyler is a celebrity. "When this shit went down it went world wide," he wrote in a letter to a friend. "I was the 2nd most popular story after the economy." He responds to fan letters and signs "Hambo," and signs autographs for other inmates "Hammer Time." But he's also been jumped, and beat up.

He has been continuing his education: he passed his GED, and scored 2100 on the SAT. He reads all day, recommending to his friends "the Harry Potter books and anything by James Patterson." He has been meeting with a priest, a Father Michael, and has expressed a desire to become ordained when he gets out of jail. But it seems unlikely that will happen. Because Tyler committed the murders six months short of his 18th birthday, he cannot be sentenced to death, but prosecutors can pursue two life terms. When asked about his judicial philosophy, chief assistant state attorney Tom Bakkedahl, who is trying Hadley's case, says, "Our focus is on punishment, not rehabilitation."

Tyler Hadley
Tyler Hadley


In his letters from prison, sent to friends and family members — particularly his grandparents — Tyler is, by turns, depressed, wretched with guilt, angry, confused, bored, and delusional:

I was just living my life as a normal seventeen year old kid and next thing I know I'm in the middle of St. Lucie County jail…I ruined a lot of people's lives and I can't seem to forgive myself. I find myself crying a lot because of all the guilt. Everyday I beg for forgiveness and I ask God not to send me to Hell. I don't want to go there. Father Michael told me that if I just confess my sins and repent then God will forgive me for everything. I just can't get rid of all this guilt. It's swallowing me whole…I'm extremely nervous that I'm going to get a life sentence. It's making me pretty depressed I want to say I'm really sorry for all the grief I've stirred up. I know everyone thinks I'm a psychopath and all. But I really am sorry for everything. I've been praying everyday for forgiveness and for a decent plea offer. I should get one since it's my first offense…I feel extremely bad for Ryan and especially you and my other grandparents for the grief I've caused. I feel like Ryan doesn't love me anymore but I know he does and he's just going through a rough time…It's so hard going through this. I'm scared and I feel so alone…

He forgave Michael Mandell for turning him in, and preventing him from committing suicide, though not before pointing out that "I'm in jail because of you." 

I wish I could throw back some Miller Lights and smoke a fat ass strawberry White Owl. But I gotta say it feels good to be sober. My head is nice and clear. Make sure you drink some Miller for me. Drink yourself stupid like I used to do…I swear to you, Michael, the devil had a hold on me. I talked to him and he talked to me. That's why I seemed so crazy toward the end. I'm not a cold blooded monster like everyone thinks I am. I'm a caring person that made a horrible mistake. You gotta let people know that… 

On the morning after the party, the news of Tyler's arrest spread rapidly among the teenagers who had attended the party. Mike Young and several of his friends had just returned from the beach when their phones started buzzing.

"I was like damn, brother," says Mike. "That's creepy as hell. I can't believe we partied last night where there was dead people." After Mike gave an interview to a local news reporter, he got 30 Facebook friend requests. "They were like, "I seen you on the news, bro!' I was like, 'Yeah, it was awesome!'"

"I wasn't upset when I heard," says the 16-year-old cheerleader. "I wasn't scared, or disgusted. It's not like I knew him personally. I was just in awe."

When Anthony Snook found out about the Hadley murders, he thought, "Wow. I just went to the party of a lifetime. It's messed up what he did, but 20 years from now, I'll be able to say I was there. I hate Port St. Lucie, but that's kind of cool."

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