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7 things I underlined in the Rolling Stone story about the Port St. Lucie teenager who killed his parents and then had a party with their bodies in the house



Read it yet? Here.

1. Port St. Lucie was not built for teenagers. Named after the patron saint of people with eye problems, the town was the brainchild of three Jacksonville brothers — Frank, Elliot and Robert Mackle — who were determined to profit from the massive migration of retirees to south Florida. In 1961 the Mackles bought approximately 40,000 acres of swamp and pine flatwood forest a hundred miles north of Miami, subdivided the land into plots measuring 80 by 125 feet, and placed full-page ads in Life and Newsweek that promised fulfillment of "the Florida dream." A young girl with a blond ponytail held a gigantic beach ball in her arms beneath a palm tree; a man with graying temples helmed a motorboat, accompanied by two young beauties; blueprints touted the modern designs of "fun filled, sun filled. . . Space Age Homes." The images were fantasies, of course — the land was still swamp — but the price was right. You could buy a house in Port St. Lucie for just $10 down, and $10 a month, much cheaper than the more expensive retirement communities farther down the coast. But you would keep paying for the rest of your life.

2. By 1980, Port St. Lucie's population had grown to 15,000, and the city had begun to sprawl inland, overtaking I-95, nine miles from the coast. In 2006, at the height of the real estate boom, Port St. Lucie's population surpassed 150,000. It was the fastest-growing city in the United States. The winding suburban lanes were graded so quickly that no one bothered to make sure the street names were spelled correctly. Driving through the city today you will pass Galaxie Street, Voltair Terrace, Hershy Circle, Twylite Terrace. The names were designed to give the former swampland a patina of sophisticated grandeur. The street on which the Hadley family had lived since 1987 is named "Granduer."

3. Driving through the city, after passing an orderly series of 10 or 15 neatly landscaped suburban homes, you might arrive at a square plot of what resembles wild jungle: a dense, overgrown plexus of pine flatwoods, wiregrass, wax myrtle, fetterbush, Dahoon holly, wild blueberries and saw palmettos, their leaves shaped like limp hands with dozens of fingers.

4. Bewildered bobcats, raccoons, wild boars and alligators often climb out of the river and onto their neighbors' lawns.

5. During Tyler's adolescence, Port St. Lucie was known nationally, if it was known at all, for two things: the New York Mets, who held their spring training camp there; and marijuana. During the real estate boom, dealers from Miami began buying up empty houses — often for as little as $50,000 — outfitting them with LED lights and hydroponic systems, and using them as grow operations. The practice became so common that it earned the city a new nickname: "Pot St. Lucie."

6. "The town is so boring," says Anthony Snook, a lanky 20 year old with an ironic mustache and a surfer's drawl, while shopping for a new glass pipe at 420 Peace Avenue, a local head shop. "It drives kids nuts."

7. For a city without any rough neighborhoods — without any neighborhoods, in fact, or, for that matter, sidewalks — there is a surprising amount of crime in Port St. Lucie. Much of it is committed by young people.

[Last modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 10:32am]


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