I’ve covered a lot of killers during my 17-year career as a true crime journalist, but only one man—the most methodical of the bunch—has ever showed up in my dreams.
I still see his face sometimes while I sleep: a stoic, impenetrable mask, wholly indifferent to whether I live or die. The nightmares invariably begin with us sitting in my car, a cramped, beat-up, 2008 Toyota Yaris, the killer in the driver’s seat and me in the back. He’s blinded me with blacked-out goggles and bound me there, just as he did his real life victims.
“All of you want to be in control,” he says, and in my dreams I know precisely who he means: the police detectives, the FBI profilers, his dead and living victims, their families, and me, the writer working to weave their voices into a single story that, I pray, helps bring him to justice. “But you’re not. I am.”
Then, without warning, he raises his gun and I jolt awake, the sound of gunfire ringing in my ears. In the light of day the mystery deepens, the killer again becoming unknowable, untraceable, his life a maddening riddle. Who is he? Where is he? What drives him to kidnap, bind, place blacked out motorcycle goggles over his victims’ eyes, and kill? And will he do so again? These are questions investigators from the FBI and two South Florida police agencies—as well as numerous online sleuths—have spent eleven years trying to answer.
Millions of dollars have gone toward trying to identify and catch the entity I call the Boca Mall Killer; one or more gunmen whose crimes have wrecked dozens of lives. Detectives and supervisors have come and gone from the investigations, frustrated by their inability to close them out. Most importantly, two beautiful mothers, along with a glowing, sweet-natured child, are dead, shot in their heads at point-blank range.
That the mall killer wound up infiltrating my dream life came as no surprise to me. After all, I’ve been consumed with the task of identifying him (or them, since opinions are divided on whether one or more men carried out the attacks) since 2007, the year I began writing articles about the mall crimes for The Palm Beach Post, a large metropolitan newspaper based in West Palm Beach. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in one of his most famous sentences, roughly translated: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” As the dayside police reporter in The Post’s South County Bureau, gazing into the abyss was my specialty: I spent much of my time visiting homicide scenes and speaking with crime victims, grieving families, witnesses, and investigators. So when the police scanner crackled on Dec. 12, 2007, with word that a mother and her young daughter had been fatally shot inside an SUV at Boca’s tony Town Center mall, the story fell to me and my reporting partner at the time, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Michael LaForgia, now with The New York Times.
It quickly became clear to us that the murders of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, 7, were not isolated incidents. Nine months earlier, on March 23, 2007, a 52-year-old mother named Randi Gorenberg was abducted and murdered shortly after walking out of the same mall exit as the Bochicchios. And it didn’t end there: A Jane Doe victim and her 2-year-old son had been kidnapped from the Town Center parking lot on Aug. 7, 2007; and another Jane Doe victim had likely been robbed by the same perpetrator or perpetrators in Boca’s Mizner Park parking garage on Aug. 10, 2007.
The mall stalker wasn’t your ordinary psychopath. He had a chilling calling card that set him apart from the rest of the criminal fraternity: He placed motorcycle goggles with their lenses blacked out on some of his victims, plunging them into darkness after binding them in their car seats with zip ties, novelty handcuffs, and tape.
I became a crime reporter, in part, to help stop men like this; men who get off on their own criminal ingenuity, who bask in the dark talent they possess for outsmarting detectives and destroying the innocent.
I’ve spilled a lot of ink over the years chronicling how I ended up tackling these kinds of stories, becoming a true crime author covering controversial subject matter—and being attacked for it—along the way. But today it is this man, the Boca Mall Killer, who gets me out of bed each morning. With help from my dogged friend LaForgia and others, I am investigating the haunting attacks we worked relentlessly to chronicle and solve in 2007 and 2008, only to come up short. Perhaps this time around, things will be different. For the families tormented by this killer or killers’ crimes, that is my greatest hope.
Someone out there knows something—some piece of information that can grant justice to this killer’s victims
After 11 painful years, it’s time they speak up.
Copyright 2019 by Kevin Deutsch. All Rights Reserved
Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning true crime writer, host of the true crime podcast “A Dark Turn,” and author of two books: “The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips,” and “Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire.” He has worked on staff at various newspapers including the New York Daily News, Newsday, The Miami Herald, and The Palm Beach Post. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Post, The Orlando Sentinel, The Forward, The Independent, and other publications. A member of PEN America and the Authors Guild, Deutsch lives in the Bronx, New York, where he works as a staff writer for the journalism nonprofit Bronx Justice News.