Accused Serial Killer and Miami Realtor Willy Suarez Maceo May Have Thought He Had a New Way to ‘Clean Up’ His Neighborhood

copyright free, provided by Miami/Dade County Corrections Department

Willy Suarez Maceo is charged with two counts of first-degree and one count of attempted murder. He has not been tried or convicted. As a result, the content provides a hypothetical account of the reported facts and possible motives leading to the current charges. He is innocent until proven guilty.

Twenty-five-year-old Miami resident Willy Suarez Maceo was an upscale realtor and, based on his tweets and Instagram posts, a lover of women, money, and fancy cars. He is also a suspected serial killer.

He is charged with fatally shooting 56-year-old Jerome Antonio Price on December 21st, 2021. A few hours earlier, he tried to kill Jorge Jardines, who survived despite a gunshot wound to the head. Police also believe he stabbed to death 59-year-old Manuel Perez on October 16th.

Maceo chose easy victims. They were homeless. They were living in a time and place that was increasingly hostile to the unhoused, where increasing vagrancy laws were making walking, camping, standing, or sleeping in certain areas offenses that could get you thrown in jail. They were asleep when they were attacked. This is a perfect trifecta of vulnerability.

Surveillance cameras and witnesses have helped police identify Maceo’s most recent modus operandi. He would cruise in his black Dodge Charger on Miami’s downtown streets, looking for victims. When he spotted one, he would slow down and circle back until he was close enough to the victim to the shoot. At that point, he would roll down his window, pull out his 9mm Glock, and fire away. He didn’t even have to get out of his car.

Ballistics tests linked 9mm shell casings found at both crime scenes, and closed-circuit cameras captured the license plate of a black Dodge Charger seen near where Price was gunned down. According to authorities, detectives ran the plate, which showed Maceo owned the car.

This Upstanding Citizen Saw Something and Spoke Up

It’s unclear how long these murders would have continued if it hadn’t been for the hero in our story. Around 8 p.m. on December 21st, a frantic witness flagged down a police officer. He had been walking by and saw a man lying on the sidewalk, obviously injured. The witness thought maybe the victim had been severely beaten.

The officer quickly realized that the man (Jorge Jardines) had been shot in the head. He called an ambulance, and Jardines was hospitalized in critical condition. He was the only victim to survive.

Two hours later, police found a second victim. This man was dead, shot five times. 9mm shell casings were found at both scenes. The hunt for the perpetrator was on.

Let’s hope Maceo was a better realtor than an assassin.

He left physical evidence behind. And surveillance cameras painted some damming pictures.

One video connected him to the October stabbing. Another video showed him leaving his girlfriend’s apartment building wearing a long-sleeved black jacket, khaki pants, and red and silver sneakers on the night of the shootings. He had a Glock tucked into his waistband. Another video showed him walking close to where police discovered Jardines.

Another camera showed a car pulling up to the curb where Antonio Price was sleeping and five muzzle flashes lighting up the dark. When Maceo was arrested on December 23rd, he had a Glock in his car; it was later matched to both shootings. Maceo is currently in jail without bond.

At this point, you — like me — might be wondering what could possibly be the motive? Why would someone with so much to lose risk it all with so little to gain?

We don’t yet know. Nor do we know if Maceo knows it himself. There is some evidence that not everything was what it seemed underneath the shiny exterior Maceo presented to the people around him.

I can think of at least two possibilities, either of which might be true. One is that this is a thrill kill; Willy Maceo, out of boredom or malaise, decided to up his game and chose an easy target. Perhaps prejudice toward the homeless made them especially appealing; Lord knows there have been plenty of disgusting comments praising Maceo for “taking out the trash” since his arrest.

Pleasure/enjoyment is the number one motive among serial killers. With thrill kills, in particular, the perpetrator views hunting his prey as a hobby and killing them as fun. An example is Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen, who kidnapped young women and flew them on his small plane to the wilderness and proceeded to hunt them down like wild animals.

There have also been plenty of homeless-targeting “role models” available to Maceo. Just as Maceo was charged for killing the homeless, another was sentenced for it. On Tuesday, February 9th, 2022, 40-year old Forrest Robert Brantley was sentenced to 33 years to life for stabbing two homeless men in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day, November 28th, 2019. Fifty-five-year-old Robert Erbe died.

To date, we have no evidence that Maceo was psychotic before, during, or after the murders. Surveillance footage suggests Maceo was purposeful and deliberate. He seems to calmly position himself for his shots and returns to his girlfriend’s apartment after the murders. These don’t fit with someone in the throes of a psychotic break.

On the other hand, Maceo reportedly has a history of mental illness. More than a year before the December shootings, there were problems on the horizon. Maceo’s parents called 911, telling police Maceo suffered from bipolar disorder and refused to take his medication. He had reportedly been ranting about conspiracies and, according to his parents, “racking the side of his Glock.”

Maceo was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold (which is not easy to get). Law enforcement seized his guns but returned them within three days of his release as required by law.

It is not unusual for individuals experiencing manic symptoms to refuse medication. Anyone who’s ever done cocaine or gotten “liquid courage” while drinking alcohol knows how seductive artificial self-confidence and self-esteem can be. Who wants to come down from a high in which they feel invincible — even godlike? And, of course, insight and judgment go right out the window.

There is some hint Maceo may have been experiencing hypomanic symptoms. In his tweets, for instance, he describes himself as an expert in “home security systems, firearms, surveillance systems, immigration, public notary, architecture and development, business and corporate structures, stock market and cryptocurrency investment, portfolios, legal referrals and more.” Maybe Maceo was a twenty-first-century Renaissance man. But I think it’s more likely his self-assessment was unrealistic, clouded either by mental health symptoms or a belief in his own bullshit.

We all know how quick the media is to point the finger at mental illness when someone is harmed. The leap is often so seamless that the narrative is not on whether or not the offender had a mental illness but what it was. But that’s an oversimplification at best and inaccurate (and harmful) at its worst. The relationship between violence and mental illness is indirect and complex.

Let’s assume Maceo has a history of bipolar disorder. There are many things we would need to know before making any link between his symptoms and the slaying of two sleeping men, including:

  • What mental health symptoms (if any) was he experiencing?
  • What treatment (if any) was he receiving? There’s a huge difference between treated and untreated severe mental illness.
  • Was he using drugs or alcohol? · There is a positive relationship between substance use and violence, with or without adding mental illness to the mix. Some studies suggest that when we control for substance use, the link between mental illness and violence is minimal.
  • What other issues did he have? We know he didn’t have a criminal record, but did he have a history of criminal behavior? Did he have a personality disorder? There is a much more vital link between antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy and violence than any severe mental health disorder.

Any link between violence and mental illness has to do with the symptoms the person is experiencing, not the diagnosis. With bipolar disorder, aggression is most likely to occur when the patient is experiencing manic symptoms and is most likely to be impulsive (as opposed to premeditated) and reactive) as opposed to planned.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Willy Suarez Maceo. We don’t know a lot about the nights of October 16th and December 21st, 2021. What we do know is that two men — almost three — lost their lives simply because they were sleeping on the streets of Miami.

Originally published at https://joniejohnstonpsyd.substack.com on February 10, 2022.

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Forensic psychologist/private investigator//author of serial killer book. Passionate about victim’s rights, the psychology of true crime, and criminal justice.

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Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D.

Forensic psychologist/private investigator//author of serial killer book. Passionate about victim’s rights, the psychology of true crime, and criminal justice.