Adrian Doorbal was a Caribbean Adonis when he was busted for murder. Today, he's a bald death-row inmate who likes to seek out online pen pals.
One of their victims survived a month of sleep deprivation, Taser jolts, lighter burns, and even the coup de grâce: three days of waterboarding with sleeping pills and booze before being strapped into a blazing car. Two other victims weren't so lucky, ending up murdered and chopped to pieces with chainsaws, their body parts tossed into the Everglades.
They were the Sun Gym Gang, and even by Magic City standards, their macabre exploits were difficult to stomach. Yet their incredible story almost went untold. Crime reporter Pete Collins couldn't find any takers for his book about the bloody spree until he pitched the tale to Miami New Times, which ran it in three installments between December 1999 and January 2000. "Pain & Gain" turned into one of the most widely read yarns in this paper's 26-year history.
Collins's tale documented how Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal kidnapped three victims, killing two of them. Once they were caught, their prosecution became the longest, most expensive case ever tried by the State Attorney's Office. More than 22 search warrants were issued. One hundred-plus witnesses were called to the stand. And 10,000 pieces of evidence were presented. The jury was sworn in on February 20, 1998, and didn't begin deliberations until four months later.
It was a tome so diabolically cinematic that it's about to become the first New Times piece to grace the silver screen. Blockbuster director Michael Bay, who lives in Miami, read the series and decided to transform it into a pitch-dark comedy. His adaptation, starring and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, hits theaters April 26.
Before Pain & Gain hits cinemas across the country, New Times tracked down the characters who made the true story so unforgettable. Here is what's become of them two decades after the Sun Gym Gang's infamous bloodbath.
Key description: "Although Doorbal was shorter than Lugo, he too had the build of a professional weightlifter, his muscle striations enhanced by his dark skin. He sported a thick head of wavy black hair that fell almost to his waist. Indeed Lugo's sidekick from Trinidad resembled some carved Caribbean virility god."
Real-life role: Lugo's cold-blooded right-hand man,
Doorbal wasto Lugo's . A dark-skinned Adonis, he suffered bouts of impotency from his chronic steroid abuse. He met his gym-rat buddy through his cousin, and Lugo soon hired Doorbal to work part-time at Sun Gym. On the side, he cut him in on a lucrative Medicare scam, netting $1 million for both of them.
While Lugo was the brains, Doorbal was the cold-hearted brawn. When the Sun Gym Gang held Schiller captive inside a Hialeah warehouse, Doorbal gleefully scorched him with a lighter. Blindfolded and chained to a wall, Schiller recalls Doorbal softly whispering in his ear "fire, fire" before he felt a hot flame cooking his arms. When the crew learned Schiller had survived the assassination attempt and was recovering at, Doorbal offered to sneak into his room and strangle him.
"Doorbal just loved violence," Schiller says today. "He enjoyed what he was doing to me. He is the kind of guy you'd imagine had fun killing cats and dogs as a kid."
His brutality only got worse with Griga and Furton. Doorbal crushed Griga's skull with a blunt object, strangled him, and finished him off with a horse tranquilizer. He also injected Furton with lethal doses of the trank. Then Doorbal used a chainsaw and a hatchet to dismember their bodies.
He was so chill about the brutal crimes that he enlisted his new fiancée to help him scrub the blood off his condo's walls. When police finally arrested him on June 2, 1995, at his Miami Lakes apartment, he admitted his part in Schiller's abduction, then stopped talking. His last comment to detectives: "I'll never see daylight again."
Current status: On death row for the murders Griga and Furton
Like Lugo, Doorbal was sent to state prison on August 31, 1998, one month after he was sentenced to die for killing the Hungarian-born couple. He filed his first appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on February 8, 1999, claiming that police lacked probable cause. The state's high court denied his petition four years later. In June 2004, he requested a new trial but was again denied. His last appeal failed on November 2009. The only way Doorbal can avoid execution now is through a governor's pardon.
Between all his appeals, Doorbal has found time to make friends in online message boards. Though he was tossed in solitary for 30 days in 2005 for abusing his email privileges, he hasn't stopped looking for new pals.
Now 41, Doorbal has retained his boyish good looks, though his signature black mane has been replaced by a clean bald dome. According to his profile on askaconvict.com, he's "like a guy you meet in line at" and "still works out regularly five to six days a week."
Two months ago, Doorbal signed up at writeaprisoner.com, writing that "nothing is more important to me than relationships, friendships, and the people in my life."
Doorbal adds, "I'll be a great friend, honest, truthful and always there if you need me. I'll be waiting for you."