By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
In North Miami off 441 at the Cloverleaf Interchange, where the Palmetto Expressway joins I-95 for over two decades a crumbling, graffitied building decayed while traffic whizzed below it. It was once a hospital, and it developed a reputation for being haunted.
Parkway Regional Hospital
Parkway Regional Hospital opened its doors in 1974, with enough room for 300 patients. There was a psych ward on the 7th floor, with a separate entrance for patients brought in due to a Baker Act.
There was a morgue in the basement.
As time passed the area became crime ridden, and the hospital closed in 2002. The empty building became more derelict as the years passed. It was demolished in July, 2023 after more than 20 years where, it stood untenanted, by the living that is.
This story was sent to Miami Ghost Chronicles in 2011:
THE SECURITY GUARD'S STORY
On December 3, 1998, Dr. Christina Gabriele Smith was shot twice in the chest by a psychiatric patient. One of the bullets hit her heart, and she died an hour later. The man fled, firing at anyone who stood in his way including James Reed who headed a Narcotics Anonymous meeting on the same floor. He received a wound on the leg. Another man from the meeting held the gunman in a bear hug until Officer Christopher Starnes who was coming up in the elevator with a handcuffed psychiatric patient, handcuffed Sterling until other officers arrived.
It was not known how a patient that had been Baker Acted had a gun or why he shot at his own doctor.
The patient's name was Knollys Sterling, 68. He was angry at Dr. Smith because she would not let him leave again to take care of his dog and attend to his ice cream vending business.
The hospital allowed him to go with a driver to close his house. He had just lost the property in a foreclosure sale a few days before. He was searched upon his initial arrival, but it seemed he was not searched when he returned from the visit to his home. It was suspected he snuck the gun inside the case of a manual typewriter he brought back with him. There were no metal detectors at the hospital.
It seemed the hospital had other security issues. On November 8, 1998, a man jumped to his death from the 7th floor window. Two weeks before the shooting another psychiatric patient jumped from either a 2nd or 3rd floor window, suffering only minor injuries.
A judge had committed Sterling to the psych unit days before. He was out on bail since 1996, for an attempted murder charge. This was his fourth arrest since 1978. He had fired his gun at the ground while arguing with neighbors.
Sterling confronted Dr. Smith near the nurses' station, where he asked her why she was keeping him in the hospital, and when he could leave. She told him he was supposed to stay for 5 days of treatment. He became belligerent shouting this would ruin his business and he had a dog to care for.
Sterling returned to his room where he got the gun he had kept hidden for two days. The doctor saw him and turned to run, but she was hit in the chest. Sterling then fired off two shots at some men who came into the hallway from the NA meeting.
He screamed, "I told you... that I'm a person. That I'm somebody," witnesses said.
Sterling was charged with 1st degree murder. Police found the .380 caliber handgun in the psychiatric unit. He gave a full confession to the police, and it was noted that he was articulate, and did not appear disoriented or confused.
Police records indicated the Jamaican native had a history of violence. In 1978, he was charged with aggravated assault, but the case was dropped and the details of the event were lost. In 1989, he was picked up on a warrant, and a search of a duffel bag he carried yielded a .25-caliber firearm with 7 rounds in the clip, and one in the chamber. He was sentenced to 2 days in jail.
In 1993, he was charged once more with aggravated assault. The victim was selling snow cones for Sterling and they argued over money. He punched the woman and then bit her on the nose.
In September, 1996, he was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of attempted murder for firing shots at two boys from the neighborhood who knocked on his door by mistake. He was out on $5,000 bail when he killed Dr. Smith. The case was delayed several times, running into the current year of the crime.
In August, 4 months before the murder, Sterling's court appointed attorney told the court his client was not mentally competent to stand trial. In October, Judge Gill Freeman ordered Sterling to go for outpatient psychiatric treatment.
The doctors after examining him found that he was worse than the judge had been told, and he needed to be treated at a secure facility, in other words he needed to be committed versus an outpatient treatment. In response, Sterling vanished. The judge issued a warrant, but Sterling turned himself in the same day. They diagnosed him as psychotic, paranoid, delusional and dangerous.
Besides his criminal problems, Sterling needed to come up with $7,000 to halt foreclosure on his house.
According to his attorney, "He blamed everyone for his problems. I was the fourth attorney he used. If he had settled the case two attorneys ago, he could have saved his house, but he didn't want advice from anyone."
To the people in the Strawberry Fields neighborhood where he lived, he seemed a nice man. He was divorced and had several children, but lived there alone. He was known for parking his ice cream truck in front of his house, and letting the neighborhood kids pick what they wanted for free. However his personality and habits had become strange, and neighbors were cautious around him. Especially after he fired a gun into the ground near two children two years before. They had mistakenly knocked on his door at 11917 SW 208th Terrace, Miami.
The death of Dr. Smith caused a ripple effect that seems to presage the closing of the hospital. In 1999, the hospital was put on probation over safety issues tied to her murder.
Dr. Smith's parents sued the hospital for security practice and received an undisclosed settlement in 2003. Soon after her parents sued Parkway, Smith's companion of 6 years, a Miami lawyer filed suit against the estate. She said she should gain control of the estate's assets or be financially supported by it for the rest of her life due to the relationship between them. However under Florida's wrongful death statute the partner has no claim to it.
In 2001, Sterling was declared competent to stand trial for 1st degree murder. He had been diagnosed with colon and prostate cancer. He was sentenced to 15 years.
As of 2023, Knollys Sterling served his sentence and is still alive, age 92.
In 2018, the graffiti on the building made the news because it had taken an obscene turn. Graphic sexual signs could be seen by traffic on the highway. It was referred to as an x-rated billboard.
By then the building had a reputation as a hangout for vagrants, drug addicts and those hiding from authorities.
A year later the decayed building made the newspapers again, when it was rumored a man who killed Lorrice Harris and her young daughter Shayla Chambers was hiding there.
Noel Chambers, 57, hacked his wife of 10 years, and his daughter with a machete. The dispute arose because Harris wanted a divorce. Noel Chambers, a Jamaican was known to friends by the nickname "Massive", despite only being 5'6" tall. He also attacked Shanalee Chambers, 29, his daughter who survived and was hospitalized.
Ironically Lorrice Harris, who was a nurse had gone to Jamaica 10 years before to marry Chambers, and help him immigrate to the United States.
He was captured a few days after the crime and was charged with 2 counts of first degree murder, and 1 count of murder in the first degree with a deadly weapon/attempt. As of 2023, he's being held without bond, and is pending trial.
In October 2020, Adrian Valenzuela, 21, fell to his death inside the abandoned Parkway Regional Hospital. He had just moved from California, and went with 3 friends to the building. He walked away to make a phone call, when they heard "a loud noise, a loud bang". He stepped into a dark stairwell and didn't see the hole in the middle of the stairs. He fell hundreds of feet. His phone was found on one floor, his shoes on another, and his feet at the bottom.
Demolition on the building was completed in July, 2023.
A true ghost story submitted to Miami Ghost Chronicles about one of the most infamous haunted places in South Florida, The Biltmore Hotel.
It was a warm August night back in 1999. My friends and I decided to go see the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. So we parked at our friend's house that lived a block away then we proceeded toward the huge landmark.
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