O.J. and the Mob

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B utch Casey was behaving strangely.

His mood had turned dark in the month leading up to his violent murder in June of 1994 in South Florida.

He seemed to sense he was in danger. He spoke of machine guns and battling mobsters.

And after he was beaten and gunned down on his dining room floor — along with two women he had invited to his house for drinks after they closed his nightclub, Casey’s Nickelodeon — friends and family told police of his recent depression.

They said he was anxious about the arrest of one of his long-time friends on murder charges. And it’s that last revelation that sent detectives and the media on an intriguing and unexpected tangent in the early days of the investigation.

His friend was O.J. Simpson.

O.J. Simpson (AP file photo)

Buffalo

In 1973 — long before the Casey’s Nickelodeon nightclub in South Florida — Butch Casey ran a Buffalo, New York, bar with the same name for his parents, Pappy and Dottie Sucharski.

It was there that he met O.J. Simpson.

The running back was having a breakout year with the Buffalo Bills, setting records and earning the league title of Most Valuable Player. And Casey’s had become a regular hangout for Simpson and other members of the Bills' team.

When Butch’s parents sold the Buffalo Casey’s and Butch opened the South Florida bar, he and Simpson remained friends.

Casey’s Nickelodeon on Hallandale Beach Boulevard (Sun Sentinel file)

They were still friends on June 12th, 1994, when O.J.’s wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were violently murdered in Los Angeles.

With O.J. Simpson the prime suspect, Butch was agitated and depressed by the situation.

Five days after the murders, Simpson led police on a chase through Los Angeles – the famous white Bronco chase.

Bronco chase (AP file photo)

He was arrested June 17. One week later, Butch Casey was shot to death on his dining room floor, along with his two guests, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers.

The public became intrigued by the connection and speculation trickled through the media.

But in the end, police decided it was a coincidence. And they had a better lead closer to home.

A Witness Emerges

On the morning of Butch Casey’s murder, an East Shore Drive neighbor, Gary Foy, was heading out to a bowling tournament.

Gary Foy (Sun Sentinel file)

As he was approaching Butch’s house, he saw two men backing Butch’s Mercedes convertible out of the driveway. The driver paused to let Foy pass, then pulled onto the road behind him.

Foy told police he found it strange that Butch would let two young men drive his Mercedes, and even stranger that they seemed to be treating it like a toy. Putting the windows up and down, fidgeting with the convertible roof, turning the music volume up and down.

Gary Foy was driving past the home of his neighbor, Butch Casey, and saw two men backing Butch’s Mercedes convertible out of the driveway. (Court records)

He didn’t know that the men in the car had likely just killed three people, but the scene they were making in the car caught his attention. And he was able to give police descriptions of at least one of the men in the car.

Searching for a motive

Police had a witness.

They also needed a motive. Butch had mentioned “battling mobsters” before his murder. Police had learned he owed $50,000 to a mob family.

And tips were coming into police. They said that Butch had been warned to pay up on his debt, and had taken a beating along with the warning.

Police questioned Butch’s family and friends. Was he involved with mobsters or drug traffickers? Did he mention owing money to a loan shark? Was he receiving threats?

No hard leads were emerging. Only vague references to Butch’s odd behavior shortly before his murder. And maybe even a foreshadowing of what was about to happen, in Butch’s own words.

Bryan Bonn

Butch Casey wasn’t just videotaping his home with hidden security cameras, he was also recording phone calls that he made and received on his home line.

Police found the recordings. Among them were conversations Butch had with his adult son, Bryan Bonn.

Those conversations captured Butch sounding anxious. And he confirmed that he was having trouble with the mob.

Butch: Things have been fierce here. Very, very fierce. Fierce competition.

Bryan: Oh yeah, I know.

Butch: Fierce competition. You have no idea. So I don’t know what’s gonna happen down here. There’s serious shit, battling with mobsters and all sorts of shit. Fuck.

Bryan: You?

Butch: Yeah. But I got the guy though. I got the guy. I handled that one, yeah. Some serious stuff. There’s never anything dull with my Bryan, you know that?

Bryan had only known his dad for about 10 years before the murders. He was a product of a high school romance between Butch and Bryan’s mother. His parents never became a couple, and Butch wasn’t in Bryan’s life until his son was in college.

Once they reconnected, they spent time getting to know each other. They talked on the phone frequently.

In one of those recorded calls, a depressed Butch Casey told his son that he’d be taken care of in Butch’s will if something happened to him.

Butch: Well in any case, if anything ever happens to me, Ray is the executor of my estate. And, uh, you’re in there for a good, good allowance. I’ll say that.

Bryan: No way.

Butch: I said if anything happens to me. You know.

Bryan: Really?

Butch: Yeah. I’m not saying anything is going to. But just in case.

Later, Butch sounded even more concerned.

Butch: The pressure’s on down here. I need you by my side. I do. I mean, I don’t want you with machine guns in hand. It’s not that intense.”

It was the last time Bryan Bonn talked to his father. A few days after that call, Butch was shot to death by a man with a machine gun.

A suspect emerges

Three weeks after the murders, police caught a big break that diverted them away from the mob-hit theory.

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In Miami-Dade County, miles south of Butch’s home, police had three men in custody after a brutal home invasion. One or two of them resembled one of the men pictured in a grainy photo taken off Butch’s security-camera footage and circulated to police agencies in the area.

A detective from Miramar, Roy Black, headed south to check it out for himself.

While at the station in Dade County, Detective Black ran into one of the suspects in the hall. Black’s eyes popped. “That’s the guy,” he thought.

Pablo Ibar (Sun Sentinel file photo)

The man is identified as Pablo Ibar, and police have their first official suspect in the Casey’s Nickelodeon Murders.

About Felonious Florida

The Casey’s Nickelodeon Murders was reported by Lisa Arthur based on interviews, police reports, court records and media coverage. It was edited by David Schutz and Randy Roguski. Felonious Florida is produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and presented in audio form in partnership with Wondery. The series is produced by Schutz, Arthur and Juan Ortega. Web design and production by Yiran Zhu. The Felonious Florida team includes Randy Roguski, Danny Sanchez, Sean Pitts, Cindy Choi, David Selig and Dana Banker.

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