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Our pumping party past

Pump Today's story about a Miami-Dade man accused of injecting people with silicone at underground, off-the-record parties brought up memories of South Florida's infamous pumping party death.

Vera Johnson, an office secretary from Carol City, died in March 2001 after attending a pumping party at a Miramar apartment, where she and others paid several hundred dollars each to have industrial-grade silicone injected into their breasts and butts. The silicone got into her bloodstream and caused her death, experts testified at trial.

Two men -- Mark Hawkins and Donnie "Viva" Hendrix -- were charged with Johnson's murder. The couple (Hendrix was living as Hawkins' wife) became well known for their South Florida pumping parties.

Their 2003 trial was colorful, with several transgender and transvestite witnesses and a prosecutor who at one point told jurors such people could not be trusted.

Hawkins was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, then his conviction was reversed and he was granted a new trial. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released from prison in 2006. Hendrix was acquitted of murder charges but served a five-year sentence (in a prison for male inmates) for practicing medicine without a license.   

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