I HAVE A DEVIL INSIDE ME is the true story of a satanic murder that took place in Miami-Dade, Florida, in the year 2000.
The author, my guest today, is Tony Monheim, a retired Miami-Dade police officer who spent the bulk of his 30-year career working as a detective: sixteen years in the robbery bureau, and the last twelve years as a squad supervisor in the homicide bureau. He now trains others in criminal investigation with an emphasis on homicide and crime scene investigation.
Tony’s book, I HAVE A DEVIL INSIDE ME, begins as a fictional tale might: a couple of boys are running amuck in a vacant field when they happen upon a grisly discovery: a severed human leg wrapped in a white plastic bag. Police were called and a uniformed officer responded. After confirming that the discovery was, in fact, a human leg, the officer did what cops do—he had a look around. Fifteen feet away there were two plastic trash cans cobbled together, opening to opening. You already know what they found inside, and that’s not even the strangest part of that case.
If you enjoy true crime, you will not be able to put this book down.
But now I want to explore some other topics with Tony, and I know you’ll find this interview fascinating.
Q: Tony, you were a cop during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, just as I was in L.A. But in Miami-Dade, you had the added effect of the Scarface era—that is the aftermath from 125,000 Marielitos arriving on the shores of America in some 1,700 boats. Among them, some of Cuba’s most violent offenders. What was it like being a cop in Miami-Dade during that time?
A: It was wild, Danny. The ’80s was the most violent decade in the history of Miami. Because of the massive amounts of drugs that were being smuggled into Miami by the Columbians, and to a lesser extent the Jamaicans, violent crime exploded. The murder rate skyrocketed. As detectives, we responded from one case to the next with no time to investigate them properly. Killers were literally getting away with murder. Dead bodies were turning up everywhere. School children would find murder victims at their bus stops, having been dumped out of passing vehicles the night before. Shootouts between drug gangs occurred on roadways and in public parking lots on a regular basis. Stray bullets from these exchanges of gunfire killed innocent people, including young children. The news outlets were also overwhelmed by the carnage and couldn’t keep up. Eventually only the most sensational murders were reported in the papers or on local TV stations. The public became numb to the daily slaughter. Tourism plummeted and residents moved out of Miami-Dade County in droves.
Q: Other than the “Devil Inside Me” story, briefly describe a couple of the most bizarre murder cases you investigated.
A: I recall a case where a man shot and killed his girlfriend at her own birthday party. There were several witnesses to the shooting, and I was assigned to interview one of them. I had concluded the statement and was about to walk out of the interview room when the witness said, “Hey would you like to hear about another murder?” “Sure,” I said. He then told me about an incident that had occurred years earlier. He said he was smoking weed with two other men at a house in south Miami-Dade County when his two friends got in a fight. One of the men (the homeowner) grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen counter and stabbed his friend over and over, killing him. He dragged the body into a bathtub and dismembered it. He put the body parts in plastic bags but took the severed head into the backyard and with the help of the witness buried it. I put the witness in my car, and he directed me to the house where the murder had taken place. The new owners of the house allowed us to search the property. Right in the middle of the well-kept backyard was a round circle about a foot in diameter where the grass was obviously longer and greener than the rest of the lawn. “That’s where we buried it,” the witness said. Sure enough, when we dug down about a foot and a half, we found a human skull. The killer was eventually located in another state and gave a complete confession.
Another strange case started out as a natural death. A 90-year-old woman had died in her home. She was so feeble that she was lying in a hospital bed in her living room when she expired. Her doctor was contacted and agreed to sign her death certificate. She suffered from cancer, emphysema, arteriolosclerosis, and diabetes. Her demise was not unexpected. Her body was sent to a local funeral home. While preparing the body for cremation the funeral director noticed a string near her crotch. He pulled on the string and removed a bloody tampon. He immediately called the Medical Examiner’s Office, and they retrieved the body to perform an autopsy. Prior to the incisions, X-rays were taken that revealed two projectiles lodged in her torso. She lived with her nephew who was her caregiver and sole living relative. She was not wealthy and lived in a modest home. We brought her nephew to the Homicide office and within a half hour, he admitted to killing her. He said he was told by doctors two years ago that she only had months to live. But she kept hanging on. He wanted to get on with his life, so he took a .22 caliber rifle, loaded it with .22 shorts, and stuck the barrel into her vagina. He fired both rounds and when blood began flowing onto the bed, he took one of his girlfriend’s tampons and shoved it in her. Had the funeral director not pulled that string, she would have been cremated and the nephew would have gotten away with murder.
Q: Crazy story, Tony! Both of those stories are fascinating. Have you any thoughts about writing another true crime story, maybe one of those you’ve just mentioned, or a collection of several cases?
A: Funny you should ask. I’m in the process of writing a book about the Boobie Boys. They were a vicious drug gang that I investigated. They were responsible for over 40 murders, and countless non-fatal shootings, in the 90s. Boobie, whose real name is Kenneth Williams, ran a multi-million-dollar narcotics operation based in Carol City, Florida that extended its tenacles into Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington D.C. The Boobie Boys were at war with a rival drug organization known as Vonda’s Gang, headed by a female named Vonda Jackson. She was as ruthless as Boobie, and bodies were being dropped at an alarming rate. I was put in charge of a task force that included six homicide detectives, a DEA agent, an ATF agent, and three U.S. Attorneys. For three years we worked nothing other than these two gangs. We arrested a total of 53 members of both factions. In addition, we indicted Boobie, Vonda, and 15 of their top henchmen charging them with CCE (Continuing Criminal Enterprise). We included 22 murders in the CCE and asked for the death penalty. John Ashcroft, who was Attorney General at the time, approved the death penalty for Boobie but refused for Vonda Jackson. After a 9-week Federal trial, all defendants were found guilty.
Q: Since retirement, you have stayed busy teaching homicide investigation to cops from a multitude of local and federal agencies. Where do you find the time to write?
A: Covid destroyed my teaching business. For two years I had no classes. Over the years I have been contacted by several authors and a couple of producers who wanted to tell the story of Lazaro Galindo, the main protagonist in I HAVE A DEVIL INSIDE ME. I would do interviews and send them copies of reports but in the end, nothing ever materialized. So, when Covid hit, and we were locked down, I thought I would give it a try. As you know, writing a book is not easy. People always tell cops. “Oh, you have so many great stories, you should write a book.” I found out that writing a book is really, really hard. I was used to writing police reports, but I had never attempted to write anything else. I had never written dialogue before and found that to be extremely difficult to do. I gave up several times, but my wife encouraged me to keep going. After hundreds of rewrites, I finally got my stride and felt comfortable with what I was writing. I was about three chapters away from finishing the book when I had a massive heart attack. I had just gotten home from the gym, and I said to my wife, “I just had a great workout. I’m in pretty good shape for a 69-year-old guy.” Within ten minutes I was clutching my chest and gasping for breath. I was rushed to the hospital and was told I had a 100% blockage of the lower descending artery. They inserted a stent and saved my life. My cardiologist told me that if I had waited just 20 minutes more to go to the hospital, I wouldn’t be here. I’m a very lucky guy. Within two weeks I felt great again, and I was back at it, finishing the final chapters, with a new appreciation for being alive.
Q: Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Thank God you are still with us. So back to writing, had you always wanted to tell your stories?
A: I have always enjoyed writing, but it was mostly confined to police reports. I always tried to put a little “flair” in every report or memo I wrote…to the consternation of my supervisors. My daughter is a freelance writer who writes for WebMD, The History Channel, The Biography Channel, and others. My wife says she got her writing ability from me, but I’m not so sure.
Q: It has been said that police work is hours of boredom and moments of terror. Briefly describe the most terrifying moments of your law enforcement career.
A: While I was a robbery detective and Sergeant, we encountered the worst of the worst almost on a daily basis. Armed robbers are the most violent of all criminals and are sometimes described in the ghetto as “death-struck,” as in, “That boy is death-struck,” meaning they don’t care if they live or die and are willing to go down shooting. There were countless doors that I and my fellow robbery detectives crashed through to arrest armed subjects who could have ended up in tragedy but didn’t. Were we just lucky or exceptionally good at what we did? Probably a little bit of both.
I recall an arrest Bob Thaggard and I made of three Marielitos who were part of a gang that robbed armored cars and dope dealers. In other words, dangerous, unpredictable savages. We were the only ones working the midnight shift one night when Bob got information from a prostitute that part of the gang was holed up in a seedy hotel on Biscayne Boulevard. We walked up the stairs to the hotel room the hooker had pointed out to us, and we positioned ourselves on either side of the door. Just as I was about to pound on the door and announce, “Police, open up,” Bob raised his palm in my face and shook his head “no,” telling me to stop. He reached over and slowly turned the doorknob and we walked into the room. The room was dark but the ambient light from Biscayne Boulevard enabled us to see three figures asleep on two twin beds. All three had Mac-10 machine guns lying beside them. Fortunately, the noise of the traffic on the Boulevard was loud and we were able to sneak up and retrieve the weapons without waking them. We only had two pairs of handcuffs between us, so Bob grabbed the wrists of the two on the same bed and handcuffed them together before they knew what was happening. I woke the third guy up with my gun in his ear and secured him with my cuffs. If I would have knocked on the door as I had originally planned, it may very well have resulted in a bloodbath. And most of the blood being spilled would probably have been mine and Bob’s.
These were vicious criminals who were eventually charged with numerous armed robberies and multiple murders, and they certainly wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot us through the door and flimsy walls of the hotel with the machine guns.
Another close call occurred during a robbery stakeout in southern Dade County. In March of 1980, when I was still a detective, armed robberies of fast-food restaurants had been occurring almost daily along South DixieHighway. A lone white male had been robbing Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and Wendy’s restaurants along or near the highway. Some of the same locations had been targeted multiple times. A pattern had emerged that showed he would strike at closing time on either Friday or Saturday night. The “powers that be” decided that we should conduct surveillance at eight fast food establishments in Kendall and South Districts to try and nab him in the act.
The locations were all in an approximate five-mile radius. Teams of two or three detectives were assigned to each location. At the time there was a robbery squad known as RSST. The acronym stood for Robbery Surveillance and Special Tactics. It was funded by a federal grant and led by Sergeant Mike Schulgen. Through the grant, the RSST squad purchased special equipment such as “tip alarms.” These were small rectangular boxes that were placed near the cash register. In the event of a stickup, an employee had to simply tip the box over and a silent alarm would be transmitted to an electronic panel located in a nearby van. The van was also purchased with money from the grant. Multiple tip alarms could be deployed, and the panel would give an exact location when one had been activated. The idea is that you could park the van in the middle of a group of businesses and set up the tip alarms to cover all of the stores.
I was sitting watching a Mcdonald’s when a notification came over my police radio that a tip alarm had just been activated at the Wendy’s located at 139 St. and South Dixie. I was only a mile away, so I arrived quickly and took a position on the south side of Wendy’s. All the other detectives on the detail also heard the notification and began making their way to Wendy’s.
Most robberies are quick hits where the perpetrator is in and out in less than two minutes. In this case, though, he lingered, taking his time. He even went into the walk-in cooler and took a 35-pound bag of hamburger meat. We later learned that he had planned to go on a camping trip that weekend. He exited the back door of the Wendy’s dragging the bag of hamburger behind him. He told the employees not to try and follow him or he would “kill” them. As he emerged from the back door, Mike Schulgen yelled, “Police freeze.” The robber, later identified as 28-year-old Richard McCord, turned toward Mike holding a weapon in his right hand, still pulling on the bag of hamburger with his left. Mike fired one blast from a .12-gauge shotgun that struck McCord in the chest, killing him instantly. The prolonged time McCord took inside the Wendy’s gave other detectives, who were surveilling nearby locations, the opportunity to respond to the Wendy’s and surround it. The problem was that by taking up positions on three sides of the business, we had placed ourselves in a dangerous crossfire situation.
When Mike fired the first shot with his shotgun, the other detectives, including me, thought we were being shot at by the bad guy and we instinctively returned fire. I was crouched near a parked car and only got off one round before I heard bullets whizzing by my ear and striking the car I was using for cover. I still thought the shots were coming from the robber whom I now assumed must be armed with some type of machine gun. I eventually learned that it was all “friendly fire” coming from my fellow detectives. I rolled beneath the car and tried to curl up behind the rim of a tire as bullets pinged off of the car and the pavement near me. The gunfire seemed to go on forever, and when it subsided, I was amazed that I had miraculously not been hit.
Q: Once again, I’m thankful you survived! So, what’s next for Tony?
A: Not sure what God has in store for me. I will be 71 in a few months, and I will admit that I’m slowing down a bit, but I’ve had a great run. I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. I worked with some great stand-up cops who I will always admire. I was lucky enough to work during the “golden age” of police work when you could still be a real cop. I loved putting away the bad guys. I still view police work as a noble profession, and I am disgusted by what it has been reduced to. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Most people go through life not sure if they have made a difference or not…cops don’t have that problem.”
Q: Great quote from a great man. Do you have time for a hobby, and if so, what is it?
A: My hobbies are my grandkids. I have four boys ages 12 to 4 who live less than a block away and are always at our house. The older three are heavily involved in sports: football and basketball, so my wife and I are always at their games. My oldest is the QB on his high school JV team. He also plays basketball on his High School team. The middle two play Pop Warner football and YMCA basketball. The little one is going to start T-ball this year. My wife and I are busy year-round.
Q: That sounds wonderful. Last question: What is the one piece of advice you would tell the twenty-year-old soon-to-be-a-cop Tony Monheim if you had the chance:
A: I think maybe, “Don’t do it.” Police work is not the same today as when you and I were on the job. My son is a lieutenant with Miami-Dade Police Department and I’m very proud of him, but I would not encourage my four grandsons to go into police work unless there are dramatic, sweeping changes in the next several years. I visited with my son this weekend and he told me some horror stories about what is happening in policing today. I always tell my classes, “This is the hardest time in history to be a cop in this country.” I loved being a cop. I enjoyed going to work every day. However, the disrespect and the scrutiny today’s cops have to endure by idiots who know nothing about the job is appalling. You and I have been around long enough to know that the pendulum will swing back when the citizenry is terrified enough of the criminals. But it never swings back all the way to where it was, does it?
Q: No, Tony, it does not. Thank you so much for your service, for this great interview, and for writing your stories for the rest of us to read. God bless you, my friend.
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Order Tony’s book here: I HAVE A DEVIL INSIDE ME
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