Six Months After a Florida Man Killed His Family With a Crossbow, the Truth Emerges

Categories: Crime

Illustration by Pat Kinsella
The pain bit Jose Maldonado below the right ear, hot and searing. When the lanky, dark-haired Florida State University student snapped his eyes open, he was in the same Tallahassee motel room where he'd drifted to sleep earlier. But then, in the lead-colored hour before dawn this past December 3, he saw his father, Pedro, standing over him. The elder Maldonado -- a bald man with dark eyes saucered with stress -- had tightened his fingers around his son's neck.

Jose fought free from his father's grip and leapt to his feet. Pedro then began striking his son with a long camouflage crossbow. The 21-year-old bolted from the room. He sprinted back and forth, like a man on fire, along the second-story terrace of the motel. Then Jose found the stairs and fled the University Inn & Suites, a brown zigzagging building perched on a hill ringed by oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

Across a four-lane highway, he ducked into a McDonald's. In the bathroom, Jose yanked a piece of crossbow bolt from a six-millimeter wound in his head. Blood was everywhere. After washing up, Jose didn't go for help or call police. He ran back to the room. As he'd later tell investigators: "[I] was afraid [my dad] would attempt suicide back at the motel after realizing what he had done."

Over the next 24 hours, police would find the corpses of Jose's mother and his 17-year-old brother, Pedro Jr., as well as his father -- the perpetrator of the ghastly murder-suicide. Monica and Pedro Jr. had been shot through the head with arrows from the crossbow. Pedro Sr. had slashed his own wrists and neck. The Maldonado tragedy was reported from CNN to the Daily News to the UK's Daily Mail. But now the case is closed and new details have emerged.

Police have concluded that a combination of financial stress and immigration issues might have pushed Pedro Maldonado to something no sane father could ever imagine. "Maldonado Sr. considered himself a failure to his family and to himself," explains Broward Sheriff's Det. John Curcio, an investigator in the case. "That's why he took his own life. He couldn't stand the shame of it."

Pedro Maldonado was a proud and reserved man. He had been successful in Ecuador before immigrating to Florida with his two sons and wife, Monica Patricia Narvaez, according to the police file. They seem to have arrived in Weston 11 years ago. Though Jose later told police his father applied for visas on a yearly basis to remain stateside, there are indications Pedro might have fudged the date. State records indicate both parents received driver's licenses in 2003. But records from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement show the family's entry date as July 2006.

The family settled in Weston, first renting a three-bedroom townhouse on Peppertree Drive. Later they moved to a similar townhouse at the Courtyards of the Grove development. Pedro ran an import/export business. Both sons attended Cypress Bay High School. The oldest, Jose, headed to FSU and became a drummer in the school's marching band, the Marching Chiefs. Younger brother Pedro Jr. was a member of the Cypress Bay marching band.

"When we checked up on the family itself, there were no issues of domestic violence," Curcio explains. "The father had been very successful as a businessman in Ecuador, but some of the business decisions he'd made in America had left him in debt."

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