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Murder leads to a web of clues, characters

Fenzau00_murder_mhd_ho_2William Fenzau, HIV-infected social worker turned drug dealer, surrounded himself with characters from the underbelly of South Florida's party scene:

A cunning former lover. A gruff gay nightclub doorman. An alluring Brazilian stripper. A mysterious drug supplier they all knew as Mexican Ben. And a secret federal informant.

Two years ago last week, Fenzau's bloodied body was found, stabbed more than 30 times with three knives, naked and slumped against the front door of his manicured Upper Eastside home.

Two blades were found. And detectives are still trying to sort out how the tangled storylines of Fenzau's colorful associates played into his murder.

At 38, Fenzau -- diagnosed with HIV in his early 20s -- had been facing death for more than a decade. Like with his sexuality, the sharp-tongued man friends called Will was open about his illness. He never wallowed in pity. Just get up and deal with it, he liked to say.

Raised in Broward and New Jersey, Fenzau worked in Washington after college, in jobs helping people: Planned Parenthood; an HIV clinic; a group home for mentally disabled adults. He lifted weights, building himself from a skinny boy into a strapping man. Two pots of coffee a day battled fatigue.

'He hated the word `victim,' '' his sister Lori Grande said.

Fenzau and his longtime boyfriend, Brian, ended up in Miami, where he worked as a massage therapist, and loved the ocean and his garden. But by 2004, his relationship with Brian was over, and the virus was taking vicious hold. Cocktails of HIV medication no longer worked. AIDS dementia ravaged his memory. He'd forget where he parked his car.

''I just need a little bit of energy,'' he told his sister. Fenzau began using -- and selling -- meth.

''This was not a club drug to him,'' Grande said. ``It was more about the fatigue.''

With Brian out of the picture, Fenzau began dating a man named Kevin Goode. Their relationship was stormy -- Fenzau believed Goode cheated on him regularly. And Fenzau supplied him meth to use and sell.

Fenzau's expanding circle within the South Florida meth scene included Michelle Berry, a Brazilian stripper who police said partnered with Fenzau to sell the drug; Vitto Abbate, a well-known doorman at South Beach gay clubs; a supplier known only as Mexican Ben, and Anthony Valeri, a con on probation and Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

Court records recount Fenzau's final days:

Less than three days before his body was found, Fenzau went to see a movie with a man named Steven, one friend told detectives.

On Sunday evening, Fenzau and Valeri visited a drug-buying friend named Gemma Vasquez, who overheard Fenzau on the phone. The snippet was cryptic.

'I heard Will saying on the phone, `Yes, he would do something crazy. They found out that Anthony and I are trying to cut him out of anything. . . . He is capable of doing something crazy,' '' Vasquez said in a deposition.


Later, Fenzau called his mother at about 7 p.m. June 6. That's the last anyone reports hearing from him.

On Tuesday morning, June 7, Valeri told police he came to visit Fenzau, walked in through a back door and found the bloodied body, tables overturned, papers scattered about.

Hysterical, Valeri said, he called Goode, who rushed to the home.

In the panic, Goode pulled out a knife lodged in Fenzau's neck. Instead of calling police, he drove to the nearby home of Fenzau's mother, Susan Lake, and brought her to Fenzau's house.

Valeri left, worried about his probation status. Police were finally called at about 3 p.m.

The homicide investigation -- led by Detective Leo Tapanes -- centered quickly at Goode, who had a cut on his right index finger. He said it was an accident with garden clippers. Dr. Emma Lew, of the Miami-Dade medical examiner's office, concluded the cut didn't come from yard work.

And there was the DNA. Inside the home, investigators processed a staggering amount of physical evidence. The crime scene was cordoned off for two weeks. Detectives identified Goode's blood mixed with Fenzau's blood on the inside bedroom door handle.

Several days after the investigation started, detectives found a bloody Newport cigarette butt under a toppled glass table pane, next to where the body lay. DNA from the saliva on the butt matched Goode -- and Valeri told police Goode never smoked when they viewed the body.

The day after the murder, Goode was charged with tampering with evidence -- he admitted to police he swiped a bag of crystal meth from Fenzau's bedroom. On July 5, 2005, Tapanes charged Goode with murder.

Goode killed his former lover because Fenzau ''was no longer going to provide [Goode] with free crystal methamphetamine,'' Tapanes wrote in his arrest report.

Goode's defense attorney, Jordan Lewin, said the DNA and romantic squabbles do not mean he murdered Fenzau: ``The victim was involved in buying and selling of narcotics. His lifestyle suggests that other people may have had an interest in harming him.''

For one, Lewin says, there's Fenzau's last boyfriend, Steven. He's still a mystery.

With Lewin filing a motion that Goode's statements weren't admissible because police didn't read his Miranda rights until just before his arrest for tampering, and with additional possible suspects remaining, Assistant State Attorney Gary Winston decided in September that the case needed more. The charges were dropped.

''Our belief is we can solve this murder, and when we do, our evidence will be stronger and more compelling,'' Winston said.

Detectives had pursued other leads.

A man named Javier Rosario told police Berry had visited him the Sunday night before the body was found. Furious, Berry wanted to hurt Fenzau because he had threatened to snitch on her drug dealing, Rosario said.

'She mentioned the word `sticking,' '' he said later in a deposition, making a stabbing motion with his hands.

Rosario also told police that Berry said that ''crazy guy'' from crobar -- the former doorman Abbate -- was waiting for her to ``do the job with her.''

Berry denied it. Although detectives believe Berry -- who nicknamed Fenzau ''XuXu'' -- was in debt to others and may have had some role in the slaying, nothing else corroborated Rosario's story.

Berry, 29, herself identified Abbate, also a drug player, as the man she believed killed Fenzau. She claimed she had seen him with cuts on his hands shortly after the murder, and that he owed Fenzau $18,000.

In the fifth-floor police interview room, Tapanes slid Berry a piece of paper with Abbate's mugshot on it. She scrawled in big curvy letters: ``This is the murderer of my XuXu Will.''


Detectives found Abbate at his Miami Beach apartment, nursing a cut to his right ring finger. He said he was home during the murder and injured his hand helping a neighbor move a rug.

But the investigation was dealt a blow that July, when Abbate handwrote a series of suicide notes, swallowed a bunch of pills and died.

''I'm tired of the drama. I did not hurt anyone,'' he wrote. His attorney later told police Abbate was ``very nervous that the DNA results would link him to the crime.''

No DNA from Abbate was found at the scene. But Tapanes says he still believes Goode and Abbate, perhaps going after his fresh supply of meth, killed Fenzau.

Police say Valeri, who said he was the first to find the body, may have helped somehow, perhaps letting them into the home. Valeri also owed Fenzau $20,000 he had been given to buy crystal meth, friends told Tapanes.

Mexican Ben also owed Valeri $20,000, friends said. Detectives say they won't release his name, and he has yet to be found for an interview.

In any event, police believe Valeri has not told the entire truth. He is back in federal prison on a drug conviction. Scheduled release: 2010.

''My gut tells me that Anthony Valeri had a lot more to do with it than he's saying,'' Tapanes said.

Miami cold case homicide detectives Andy Arostegui and Emiliano Tamayo are now assisting on the case.

Fenzau's sister has been a driving force, meeting with the detectives and prosecutor Winston. Grande sleuths on her own time, keeping detailed files on the case's players and passing along tips to investigators.

''To whoever knows something, I'm not going away. I can't make that clear enough. I will get justice for Will,'' Grande said.


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Last night late, I was googling old friends I had lost touch with to find out what they were up to. For all of the press about Facebook and MySpace, I don't find many. And so it's an understatement to say I was shocked when I found this article and learned of William's murder (murder? I can still hardly believe it).

Shortly after I moved to Washington, DC from the West Coast at the end of the 80s, William and I met one night at the Badlands Annex off of Dupont Circle. We were both being pursued by a gentleman whose advances were not desired. We ended up "protecting" each other and became fast friends as a result (although I don't imagine that William actually needed much protecting).

What followed were several years of big fun, weekend after weekend, while I worked on my graduate degree and William just worked. The shenanigans were attenuated only when William had a boyfriend. I was happy for William when he met Brian as it soon became evident that this one was serious (finally). I was sorry to see them move to Florida, and sad to hear later they had broken up (although not entirely surprised, knowing William). I lost touch with William shortly after they moved to Florida, seeing him only twice during visits to DC.

He had a impish sense of fun and an amazing body. He was a great friend. The strangest thing though...he never, ever, to my recollection called me by my given name instead calling me by my last name, "Butcher". (Of course, I may be the only person who called him William.)

Nothing about the William I knew could have prepared me for finding this page last night. And so, William, Butcher sends his best, may you rest in peace.

My condolences to his family and I hope his murders are caught.

This is Lori, William's sister. I just came upon this posting and you probably won't see it but...anyway, I remember you from when William and I lived together in DC. Thankfully, you are not the only person who called him William. Thank you for remembering my William and who he really was. Thank you for what you wrote. I haven't been able to stop crying since I read it, you brought me back to my William, which is important, albeit painful. Thank you again.

I hope you read this. Love to you,

i just watched an episode of "the first 48" regarding this case and i had hoped to find an article on how the police have solved this case... but unfortunately it wasn't so. i was a little moved when i realized it is almost exactly 3 years to the date since the murder.

it's so sad to think that someone could do such a thing to another human being.

i hope they catch his killer/s.

hi umm this might be not truw but are you related to renee fenzau she live in illinios? her daughter is miranda fenzau??

No relation to rennee Fenzau.

Re: Hopeful

I gave up on hope in other people a long time ago in this investigation. Now I just trust myself. But it is a nice sentiment and I thank you for posting it.

Lori Grande
(William's Sister)


I am saddened by the news of William's death. I recall how amazingly close you two were and envied the relationship. It was William who first introduced me to his hairless cat -- I had never seen one before and I didn't actually believe you when you told me of the cat.

Please find strength in your memories and I hope justice is done.

Much peace and love.



Thank you for your kind post. I am so sorry I do not remember your name. Since the murder, my mind, well, let's just say it's not as sharp as it once was. Anyway, you remembered "Moochie," William's hairless cat! :) We must know you from DC? Anyway, thank you for writing.

Forgive my poor memory. You don't know how much it means to me to have someone remember how close William and I were. Thank you does not seem like a strong enough sentiment, but thank you all the same.


Annette, I remember. Thanks again.


I worked with William in DC. He and I were partners in a group home working with disabled adults. I will always remember William for his sharp wit and sense of humor. William was so much fun to be with and he made every shift an adventure. I was incredibly saddened to hear of his death. My friend Jean called me when she came across this article. After our initial shock and grief...we spent the next hour fondly remembering William and all the great times we shared. As was always the case with Will, the stories were full of laughs and the crazy times and things Will exposed us (two gullible midwestern girls) to:) I will always remember William for his terrific spirit!

I,too, worked with William in DC in the same home for disabled adults. William had a contagious laugh that I will never forget. He taught me how to have fun, joke, laugh, lighten up. One of the "shenangens" as Butcher put it, was when william took me to a parking lot off the GW Parkway in DC. I didn't know where we were going, but he just kept laughing. I said, William, there are a lot of cars here and it's late at night. Why are they turning their lights on?" Well, William just continued to laugh at my naivety.

Even after I moved away from DC, I'd visit william and Brian in their MD home. Once again, William thought it was funny to take me to a gay bar in Baltimore where there were men dancing on the countertops. I didn't find it too funny given they were not interested in me.

Lori, I hope in some small way these reminders of William's big heart and many laughs will aide you and your mom in peace in thinking of good memories of him.

Dear Jean and Kelli,

I just came across your posts. Thank you so much for writing. William always spoke so highly of not only the clients served in the group home, but of the people he met working there. Though saddened to have you learn of his death in this way, I am glad you know because his work in those group homes was some of the proudest moments in his life and I have always felt bad that I had no way to contact his previous co-workers.

Thank you for sharing your memories. Every story brings me back to him, and helps me remember more than just the murder, and for that I am very grateful to you both.
Lori Grande

I didn't know William but heard many stories about him(all wonderful memorable). Unfortunately I got involved with this same seedy crowd in SOBE. I know almost all of these people that were mentioned in the first 48. I also know that there are people who have more information on this case. Number 1 is Ed Saunders. Shortly after Wills murder for no apparent reason he tore up his whole bathroom&then decided to sell his property to move in with mother which didn't make sense at the time. I found out years later that whoever committed these heinous crime went there to wash up. Vito did not kill himself he was disposed of because he knew too much. There is also one other who I know has information his name is Iggy. The police needed to question these people. Iam glad to hear that Michelle Berry got arrested recently& she set up Mexican Ben which is a death sentence in and of itself. Many people speculate they had something to do with it!! All in all people get what they deserve&believe me the people who did this will wind up in a cage where they belong, with all the other animals. Iam very sorry for your loss& I hope this can help you in any way. Unfortunately I have to remain anonymous for my own safety.

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