When high school student Tyler Hadley decided to throw a party, he planned to make it the party of the year. Despite the fact that no one had ever heard of the kid throwing it, plenty of bored kids in South Florida went to check it out. Tyler Hadley attended Port St. Lucie High and claimed his parents were out of town.
The entire week leading up to the event, Tyler had been telling his friends he is going to have a party, but nobody believed him. He had never thrown a party before, and his parents, Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley, had gotten increasingly strict with him after they discovered he was experimenting with drugs. It seems extremely reasonable that his parents would be more protective of their teenage son, who had been misbehaving.
Tyler’s friends didn’t think this party wasn’t going to happen. They knew Tyler’s parents, and there was no way they were going to allow a bunch of kids to come to the house and get drunk. Although his parents didn’t give their consent, it’s not uncommon for teenagers to throw parties when their parents go out of town. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened here.
When Tyler’s friends asked if the party was still happening, he replied, “I’m working on it.” Most of his classmates assumed that meant the party was off, and it was just going to be another uneventful evening in Florida. However, July 16, 2011, was far from a boring day. In fact, it was likely the most shocking occurrence to ever happen in that town.
At 11:25 a.m. on that Saturday morning, Tyler’s friend Antonio Ramirez sent him a Facebook message. They were talking about their plans for that night, and Tyler explained that he was trying to throw a party “at my crib.” When Antonio asked Tyler if his parents were home, he said they were leaving soon.
Then, at 1:15 p.m., the party was almost officially on. Tyler wrote on Facebook: “Party at my crib tonight… maybe.” Again, no one was convinced; the “maybe” kind of threw everyone off. But then, at 8:15 p.m., Tyler updated his Facebook status again, this time writing, “Party at my house hmu.” (If you’re old like me, hmu is an abbreviation for “hit me up.”)
His friends were still confused since they knew how strict his parents were. Ashley Haze commented on the post, writing, “WHAO, what if your parents come home?” Tyler’s response was, “They won’t. Trust me,” which is incredibly chilling in retrospect. The party was on.
When Mike Young arrived with about ten friends, the party was just getting started. Mike was a popular, athletic 11th grader who only knew Tyler by his face. They weren’t really friends but Tyler had a distinctive look; he was tall, skinny, standing at six foot one and weighing 160 pounds.
At school, Tyler was a quiet kid. He didn’t talk much and was prone to the occasional sudden outburst in class. He hung out with potheads, juvenile delinquents, and pill poppers – not the type of crowd Mike associated with. But it was a boring summer night, and there was nothing else going on in Port St. Lucie.
There was never anything going on in that city, which is just about 40 miles north of West Palm Beach. As a South Florida girl myself, I can attest that there isn’t much for teenagers to do over there.
The area of Port St. Lucie targets an older demographic. Sure, you have kids around, but many people go to Florida to retire. It has half a dozen golf courses, twice as many assisted living homes, seven funeral homes, two bingo halls, and a shuffleboard club. The best part about living in Florida is the beach, but the kids in Port St. Lucie don’t even have access to it.
So basically, there is no place for high school students to hang out. There’s a giant arcade called Superplay USA, which self-advertises as a state-of-the-art Family Playground. As you can imagine, that gets old and boring rather quickly. Plus, it closes at midnight.
Even the parks in Port St. Lucie are closed at night. So, as soon as word of the party got out, all the kids in the area went to check it out. After killing three hours at the mall in Stuart (about 20 minutes away), Mike and his friends headed to McDonald’s and figured they might as well stop by Tyler’s party.
Tyler opened the door wearing a black T-shirt, black Dickies, and black Nike Air Force high-top sneakers. He seemed a bit anxious; well, as anxious as you can be on Ecstasy. It was obvious that Tyler was rolling. His pupils were enlarged, and he kept rubbing his hands together, clenching his fists nervously.
Tyler instructed his guests he didn’t want anyone smoking inside his parents’ home. Soon enough, there were 60 kids at the house, and most of them had no clue who Tyler was. They made themselves comfortable, scavenged for food in the kitchen, drank excessively, and threw their beer cans onto the front lawn. Honestly, it sounds like a regular high school party.
The kids were enjoying themselves playing beer pong on the dining room table. There were glass bottles breaking and shattering on the floor and cigarettes being put out on the rug, counter, and walls. But Tyler just laughed it off.
In fact, Tyler was more concerned about the noise than he was about the destruction of his home. He was worried that the neighbors would call the police. Suddenly, smoking in the house didn’t bother him. “Actually, just stay in the house,” Tyler told the partygoers, “You can smoke inside. I don’t care.”
Mike Young was on the couch talking to some girls when a very drunk skater kid, who looked like one of Tyler’s friends, strolled over. The drunk skater boy randomly said, “I smell dead people,” and it immediately caught Mike’s attention.
Confused, Mike asked him what he meant. The kid replied saying “Oh, I don’t know. Some people are smoking, that’s all.” Mike was weirded out but figured the kid was acting strange because he was wasted. Then, the skater boy wandered off.
A huge group of kids gathered around the living room table, which was now a beer pong table. The table was located right next to the family computer, where kids took turns on YouTube, DJing and picking songs. Mike put on Wiz Khalifa’s “No Sleep” and some songs from Lil Wayne’s mixtape, like “Tunechi’s Back” and “Racks.”
The computer area was dirtier than the rest of the house. The white keyboard was covered in brownish, sticky, dried-up liquid. Maybe coca cola but probably alcohol. Nobody looked closely enough to tell for sure. Jose Erazo was another teenager who showed up at the party.
The soft-spoken 17-year-old with straight black hair parted in an angle over his forehead was playing a game of beer pong when he heard someone utter, “Oh, he killed his parents.” Everyone laughed, assuming it was some kind of joke. Jose won 15 games of beer pong in a row!
But as the night went on, people asked where Tyler’s parents were, and they got different answers. He told Mark Andrews that “they went to Georgia,”; he told Ryan Stonesifer that “they’re in Orlando”; and told Richard Wouters that they don’t even live there and “this is my house.”
Mark Andrews was a 21-year-old who met Tyler when Mark’s family moved to Port St. Lucie 11 years earlier. Tyler was best friends with Mark’s younger brothers, and the families lived right down the street from each other. Tyler once showed up at Andrew’s house at ten years old after getting into a fight with his mother.
He announced then that he would kill his parents. Mark explained to Tyler that all kids piss off their parents once in a while, which helped calm Tyler down. The boys laughed it off as it seemed like it was an in-the-moment thought, not something Tyler was actually capable of doing.
Markey Phillips, one of Tyler’s buddies, couldn’t make it to the party because he was in Chicago visiting his grandparents that weekend. However, he and Tyler hung out two nights before watching television and playing video games at Markey’s house.
According to Markey, Tyler “seemed pretty fine” that night. But he also noted that when they hung out two weeks before Tyler had blurted out that he “wanted to kill his parents and have a big party after” in the middle of the conversation. Tyler explained how no one has ever done anything like that – throw a massive party while the bodies are still in the house.
Markey told Tyler that was crazy, but he understandably thought Tyler was kidding around; it sounded like some kind of twisted joke. It’s difficult to comprehend anyone killing their parents, let alone your friend and classmate. So, naturally, no one took Tyler seriously when he spoke about killing his parents.
On July 2, 2011 – two weeks before the party – Tyler spoke to his friend Mercedes Maxine Marko through Facebook chat, explaining that his mother had taken away his cellphone. He then said, “she’s a cunt fa sho I might kill her.” Mercedes, assuming he was joking, replied with, “OMG, no jail!! Or I mean prison! Lol.”
The “LOL” at the end of that proves that Mercedes’s mind didn’t even go there. She didn’t even suspect that he might be serious. Tyler also spoke to Matthew Nobile that weekend, his 17-year-old friend and classmate at Port St. Lucie High School.
At about 9:40 a.m. on the day of the party, Matt asked Tyler if he had done it, to which he replied, “no, but I’m gonna.” Matt’s incriminating response was, “bet?” He then wrote, “u really should now,” followed by a message saying, “do it.” Tyler reassured his friend that he was going through with the crime.
Tyler told Matt not to worry, and he planned on killing his parents, “then I’m having a party.” I would like to think that Matt also thought this was some sick joke. Maybe he was egging him on a bit, but probably because he didn’t think Tyler would kill his own parents. Either way, Matt was excited for that evening and responded with, “yeah, party time nigga!”
Needless to say, Port St. Lucie wasn’t built for teenagers. In fact, the city is literally named after people with eye problems. The town was created by Frank, Elliot, and Robert Mackle, three brothers who were trying to profit off the massive migration of retirees to south Florida.
In 1961, the Mackles bought 40,000 acres of swamp and pine flatwood forest, about 100 miles north of Miami, and subdivided the land into plots measuring 80 by 125 feet, and then bought full pages of ads in Life and Newsweek that promised the pleasure of “the Florida dream.”
The ad included a young girl with blonde hair holding an enormous beach ball in her arms beneath a palm tree, a graying man with two beautiful women steering a motorboat, and blueprints hyping the modern designs of “fun-filled, sun-filled… Space Age Homes.”
The photos were, of course, fantasies considering the land they bought was still a swamp, but the price was convincing. You could buy a home in Port St. Lucie for just $10 down and $10 a month, way cheaper than the expensive retirement communities down the coast. Although you have to keep paying for the rest of your life, $10 a month is more than affordable.
Port St. Lucie’s population increased, and by 1980 it had grown to 15,000 residents, and the city started sprawling inland and overtook I-95, nine miles from the coast. But at the height of the real estate boom in 2006, Port St. Lucie’s population reached over 150,000 people, making it the fastest-growing city in the United States at the time.
The suburban lanes were built so quickly that no one even bothered to make sure the street names were spelled correctly. If you drive through the city today, you will pass Galaxie Street, Voltair Terrace, Hershy Circle, Twylite Terrace. The names were intended to give the former swampland a luster of sophisticated grandeur. Grandeur was actually the name of Tyler’s street and where the Hadley family had been living since 1987.
Blake and Mary Jo Hadley moved from Fort Lauderdale to Port St. Lucie 24 years earlier so that they could be closer to Blake’s parents, who retired in the neighboring town, Stuart. Port St. Lucie was gutted by the real estate crash, but Tyler’s parents had recession-proof jobs. Blake worked as an engineer at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant for three decades.
Mary Jo was an adored elementary school teacher. “No matter who you were, even if she didn’t like you, she would never give up on you,” said Cameron Adams, one of Tyler’s friends and Mary Jo’s former student.
During Tyler’s high school years, Port St. Lucie was known for two things: the New York Mets used to hold their spring training camp there and marijuana. During the real estate boom, dealers from Miami started buying empty houses, usually for a little as $50,000, and pimping them out with LED lights and hydroponic systems.
Smoking weed was so common over there that the city got a new nickname: “Pot St. Lucie” In 2006, an investigation began by local and federal law enforcement agencies busted 69 pot farms in the city, but the phenomenon persists. “They are still out there,” according to Joseph Waddle, a recent graduate from St. Lucie West Centennial High School. “Marijuana is out of control. It’s everywhere. You can’t go to a party without smelling it in the air.”
As Port St. Lucie’s population grew, so did the median age. More than a third of the town’s residents were now under 24 years old. High school kids constantly complain about having nothing to do. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for bored teenagers to pass the time smoking weed.
Joseph Waddle explained that “the whole mindset of Lucie is that it’s boring, so I’m not going to do anything but throw a party. Terry Nguyen, a senior at the high school and one of Tyler’s friends, said: “in other towns, there are places where teens can hang out, but not in Port St. Lucie.”
Anthony Snook, a lanky 20-year-old with an ironic mustache, also called the town boring. While shopping for a new glass pipe at 420 Peace Avenue, he said that the boredom “drives the kids nuts. There are no role models. And the parents are always on everyone’s ass because everyone’s stressed about money.”
For a city without any rough neighborhoods, there is a surprising number of crimes in Port St. Lucie, most of them committed by bored young people. Within months of Tyler’s infamous party, a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old were arrested for having inappropriate relations with at least one (and maybe two) 14-year-olds. Then, a 18-year-old and 16-year-old were arrested after breaking into a house and shooting a couple during a robbery. A group of 14-year-olds vandalized a home that caused over $10,000 in damages.
If that wasn’t enough, another 14-year-old was found strolling the streets in a daze, with a noticeable head wound. He was wearing nothing but underwear. More teenage robbers carrying skateboards even videotaped themselves ransacking local chain stores; they jumped into a six-foot stack of Pringles cans.
They skateboarded into huge stacks of paper towels at K-Mart; they ran through the aisles of Target with their arms outstretched like they were preparing for a marathon and cleared the shelves of pillows, bread, and dog food. You can see them laughing hysterically on the surveillance footage.
So, basically, this is what happens when a bunch of teenagers without a fully developed frontal lobe have too much time on their hands. Boredom can really make a person crazy, which is why I strongly believe that it’s important for children to have hobbies.
“They’re really doing this without regard for society, rules, or regulations,” according to local psychotherapist Fran Sherman, who was shown the video footage. “They’re getting joy out of torturing people and things.”
By midnight, there were a hundred people and two dogs at the Hadley residence. A black Labrador named Sophie and an old (half-deaf and half-blind) beagle. Sophie was missing, and the beagle was hiding in Tyler’s older brother Ryan’s room. Ryan had just moved to North Carolina for college six weeks prior.
The party only lasted several hours, but the room looked like thieves had ransacked the place. Clothes and bedsheets were all over the place, the bed frame was cracked, and the beagle was shaking under the bed.
At around that time, Stephanie Castaneda showed up at the party with her friend Joshua Korte. She didn’t know Tyler well, but she had a little crush on him. He was standing there awkwardly next to his mother’s computer, chatting with some friends. Stephanie went to the bathroom, where she found a beagle hiding in the shower.
William Goodall had known Tyler since the sixth grade, but they grew apart Tyler’s first year of high school – when he started smoking weed. He couldn’t tell whether Tyler was acting particularly strange because he always acted a little off.
At about 12:30 a.m., the party was running low on alcohol. Tyler asked Mark Andrews and his girlfriend Ashley Gershman if they would drive him to the gas station just one block away. Tyler gave Mark, who was 21, a wad of $20 bills and asked him to get four cases of Busch Light.
As they waited for Mark in the car, Tyler told Ashley that his father had died. Ashley, who knew nothing about Tyler, assumed that his father passed away a while ago. They headed back to the party where kids were playing water pong since they had run out of beer. Water pong actually sounds like a genius way to end a drunken night.
One boy walked around selling round white pills for a dollar each, and another kid was selling marijuana. At 12:45 a.m., Anthony Snook showed up; someone texted him that Tyler’s party was the “biggest thing ever.” He thanked Tyler for throwing such a fun party and asked him how he’d been.
Tyler replied that he was alright in a flat tone of voice; Snook knew something was up. He knew Tyler as an introverted, young boy who laughed at his own jokes and avoided eye contact. But that night, despite all the chaos, Tyler seemed perfectly calm. Then, one boy took off his shirt, ran out of the house screaming, and came back holding a mailbox over his head.
Tyler asked the kid where the heck he got the mailbox from, and he responded, “I took it off the neighbor’s lawn!” The boy proceeded to run around the living room with the mailbox knocking beer bottles all over the floor. That’s when Tyler started losing his cool.
After making his house a total teen free-for-all, Tyler finally started getting mad and yelled about how stealing a mailbox was a felony and the cops were going to come. Someone quickly took the mailbox out of the house and returned it to the street.
That’s when Snook noticed something strange. The master bedroom door was closed. Snook assumed people were getting high in there and wanted to join in, but the door was locked. The house was pretty dark, but he did notice a black smear beneath the door. It was maybe a foot long and looked like an oil-based paint that someone tried to wipe away unsuccessfully.
Justin Wright, a soccer player at the high school, arrived at the party at 1:15 a.m. As soon as he walked in, he immediately noticed a stench. It kind of smelled like sweaty clothes that hadn’t been washed in a while.
The place was a wreck. The beautiful white floor tiles were disgusting, a few picture frames were missing from the wall, and dishes accumulated in the kitchen were smeared with the remnants of instant mac & cheese. Not the type of condition any parent would want to come home to, but Tyler was definitely not concerned about his mom or dad.
Justin asked Tyler if there were any house rules (because it certainly didn’t look like it). Tyler just told him to do whatever he wanted. Justin went to play a game of beer pong when the ball bounced on the floor and rolled under the table, where it got stuck to a brown, thick substance. He rinsed off the ball in the kitchen sink and continued the game.
As Mark Andrews was heading out, Tyler asked if he could talk to him alone. Tyler went outside and told all the kids in the yard to get back inside the house, still petrified that the neighbors would call the cops. After everyone was inside, Tyler turned to Mark and said:
“Dude, I did some things. I might go to prison. I might go away for life. I don’t know, dude. I’m freaking out right now.” Mark was confused and asked Tyler what he did that he would end up in prison. That’s when Tyler finally came clean.
“Dude, I know you aren’t going to believe me; no one will believe me. I freakin’ killed somebody,” Tyler confessed. Mark did not want to be a part of it, saying, “Dude, you killing somebody is your own business. Don’t be telling me that sort of thing. I don’t need to know.” But Mark was baffled and didn’t really believe Tyler.
Tyler went back into the house and ran into 18-year-old Ricardo Acevedo. He thanked Tyler for his hospitality and for the beer. Tyler’s chilling response was, “I just wanted to do something fun before I left.”
Ricardo asked Tyler where he was going, to which he responded, “I’m going to kill myself.” When Ricardo asked him why, Tyler said that he had done something bad, but how bad could it really be? “Don’t Worry,” Tyler told Ricardo, “If I get caught, I’ll be in jail a long time.”
Tyler found Kimberly Thieben in his bedroom, a chubby, dark-haired, 20-year-old whose nickname was “K-Nasty.” She was pretty close to Tyler, and she lived two houses away from him. He told Kimberly he was going away for 60 years. When she asked him why he told her she would find out tomorrow.
At approximately 1 a.m., Tyler asked his friend Michael Mandell if he would come speak to him privately outside. Michael had been Tyler’s best friend since they were eight years old, and they were always together. They hung out for most of the party, but Tyler caught Michael as he was talking with some other kids. He immediately went outside to talk to Tyler.
They walked to the end of the block, where there was a stop sign. Tyler looked at Michael and confessed, “I killed my parents.” Michael’s immediate response was, “yeah, right.” He didn’t believe him.
Tyler tried explaining to Michael that he was telling the truth: “Michael, I’m real. I’m not lying to you. If you look closely enough, you can see signs.” That’s when he told Michael to look at the driveway. Michael noticed two cars, Tyler’s father’s black Toyota Tacoma truck and his mother’s red Ford Expedition. If Tyler’s parents were out of town, why would their cars still be there?
Michael still couldn’t fathom what he was hearing, so Tyler told him to look in the garage. After making sure that no one was watching, Michael went into the garage and turned on the light. He saw a bloody show and ran out immediately, shutting the door behind him.
Tyler then brought Michael into the master bedroom, where there were traces of blood on the door. Tyler unlocked the door and opened it; Michael was shocked. He saw dining room chairs and towels soaked in blood in a huge pile. Emerging from the pile was a thick, white leg.
Tyler told Michael what had happened. Just before five that afternoon, Tyler hid his parents’ cell phones so they couldn’t call for help. He turned on the song “Feel Lucky” by Lil Boosie to pump himself up. He then took three Ecstasy pills because he was worried he wouldn’t be capable of killing his parents if he were “sober.”
Tyler found a claw hammer in the garage and then returned to the house. As his mother worked on the family computer, he stood behind her for a full five minutes, thinking about what he was about to do. With no remorse, he raised the claw end of the hammer and hit his mother’s head. She kept screaming, “Why?”
When Blake heard his wife’s cry for help, he ran out of the master bedroom. The six-foot-one, 300-pound father was a big man, but nothing prepared him for what he saw. The father and son made brief eye contact and he also yelled, “Why?!”
“Why the f*ck not?” Tyler shouted. He kept repeating this as he beat his father to death with the claw end of the hammer. Tyler mimicked the swinging of the hammer for Michael to see. Tyler said that once it was over, he wrapped blankets his parents’ heads and dragged their bodies into the master bedroom.
The bodies were lying face down, side-by-side; the hammer was on the floor in between them. It took him about three hours to clean up – much longer than Tyler anticipated. He gathered every piece of incriminating evidence and threw it into the room. The corpses were buried under broken dishes, shattered glass, bloody towels, books, a coffee table, Clorox wipes, a sponge mop, and coffee grounds.
Tyler took a shower, but what he did after that is incredibly eerie. He stared at his reflection in the mirror and laughed. One of Tyler’s friends, Max Mazer, was standing in the hallway outside the master bedroom when he saw Michael running out of the door freaked out.
Max said that Michael looked deranged and “was looking over both shoulders.” However, Michael didn’t leave the party. In fact, he stayed for another 45 minutes taking selfies with Tyler. In one of the photos, which looks like it was taken in the garage, Michael has a stern, defiant expression on his face, and Tyler holds up an orange solo cup. His cold eyes looked like they were filled with pain, fear, and horror.
It was just about 2 a.m. when somebody announced that there was another party happening at Mike Young’s neighbor’s house. The kids ran outside, threw their drinks onto the grass, and got into cars. Tyler ran after them. Joshua Korte just got into his car when someone slammed the window. It was Tyler.
He was yelling and asking where everyone was going. Josh explained that they were going to a different party. “Oh,” Tyler said, relieved. Josh described Tyler’s expression as “just like blank face. Like he had a blank face on.”
Fourteen cars pulled out of Tyler’s neighborhood. They headed up Prima Vista to Bayshore, with Wizz Khalifa blasting out the car windows. They finally reached their destination, but the house was dark and quiet. A girl came out in her pajamas saying she was not throwing a party; it was just a rumor.
The commotion of all these cars in the middle of the night was too much for Tyler’s neighbor. Raeann Wallace lived next door and had known Tyler ever since he was born. She really liked the Hadleys and didn’t have a problem with Tyler.
“He seemed like a happy kid,” Wallace said. “Very respectful, polite.” He enjoyed skateboarding, riding his bike, and throwing a football in the street. She once asked Tyler not to throw the ball too close to her car, and he responded with a “Yes, ma’am.” Whenever she and her husband left town for the weekend, she gave Tyler a little extra cash to watch over their house.
Tyler seemed like he was relatively close to his parents. As a child, he would stay up late waiting for his father to get home (after working the night shift at the power plant), and the two would play basketball in the driveway until midnight. Wallace said she always heard the Hadleys laughing and splashing in the pool on weekends.
But once Tyler entered high school, the Hadley residence was much quieter. Tyler was always pretty quiet and hard to read, but now, he was eccentric, unpredictable, and troubled. “He had a bizarre personality,” Cameron Adams said. “Really hyper. He’s always trying to pull a crowd. In the middle of a lesson, he would start laughing. He would just blurt out stuff.” He randomly once started mooing like a cow in the middle of biology class.
DeeDee Maynard, another neighbor, wouldn’t allow her son to play with Tyler since she caught the teenager smoking in the River Park Wildlife Preserve nearby, with a few other neighborhood kids. She was worried about his health or a potential forest fire, so she told Tyler’s mom. Mary Jo didn’t seem concerned.
“My son doesn’t smoke,” said Mary Jo. Even when Maynard said she literally saw him smoking, she didn’t want to believe it. Tyler ended up lighting the River Park Wildlife on fire two weeks later. He and a few other boys dragged an abandoned couch into the clearing, poured gasoline all over it, and dropped a match.
The fire department had to be called, but the teens got off with a warning. It looked like the Hadleys lost control of their youngest child. “It was a significant-sized fire,” said neighbor Donna Montero. “They just did it for kicks. I guess there’s nothing else to do here. I would’ve thought he’d 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, about ten weeks prior to his party, Tyler got in a fight and was arrested for aggravated battery. Since he had a juvenile record – previously convicted of burglary – he was sentenced to a week in jail and two weeks of house arrest.
Unsurprisingly, Mary Jo took away his cell phone. I never got arrested in high school, but if I had, the cell phone would be the least of my problems. It didn’t really faze Tyler, though. He was mad about the phone but was still able to communicate with his friends through Facebook.
After enjoying the party for a little longer, Michael finally did the right thing and called the cops. He explained that he took the selfie with Tyler as a memory since he knew that was probably the last time he was going to see him not in handcuffs.
In 2014, Tyler Hadley was convicted and sentenced. In 2014, after multiple charges in his juvenile history, Hadley was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his time at Okeechobee Correctional Institution in Okeechobee, Florida.