The curious case of Kenneth Burnstine – part two

When I first came to live in Fort Lauderdale, I lived on East Oakland Park Boulevard. Not knowing my way around too well, a great landmark for me when I was finding my way home was the building I called ‘the spaceship’ on Oakland and Federal.

What I didn’t know until today is that the building was erected and owned by Ken Burnstine and is named the Kenann Building after Burnstine and his wife.

Yes, that Ken Burnstine.

You’ll remember the story about ‘drug baron’ Ken Burnstine and how he came to his end in an airplane accident in the mid nineteen-seventies. And you may also remember that I wondered, in view of his activities, if it really was an accident.

The quote from newspaper reports at the time said: His death seriously cripples a federal narcotics conspiracy case against international arms dealer Mitchell WerBell and several co-defendants.

You may also remember that (squeamishness alert) Bernstine’s body was identified by the discovery in the wreckage of a severed left thumb – the print was Burnstine’s. However by 1981 newspapers were reporting that they suspected that Burnstine had faked his own death. This is because there had been many reports that Burnstine had been seen in Latin America … minus his left hand. Oooh.

They speculated that (double squeamishness alert) that Burnstine ‘acquired’ a body, presumably by murdering someone, and put the body into his airplane and chopped it up a bit, specifically disposing of its left thumb. Then, he (sorry) cut off his own thumb and bailed out of the plane well before it crashed. (I really am sorry, but that’s what the report said).

Both the Federal Aviation Authority and the FBI investigated the crash and it was noted that Burnstine was a very experienced pilot. (Do you remember that the last words heard via the radio before the plane crashed were ‘oh no’? Does that sound right to you? That seems awfully polite. Even if I drop a pen on the floor or something I say ‘oh ****’. I’d really expect a drug dealer to have colorful language too but maybe that’s just me…)

A court case a year after the accident revealed that Burnstine had left three sealed letters with his wife ‘in case anything bad should happen’ to him…

Well, I don’t know. Was it an accident? Was he bumped off by the men he was going to give evidence against? They were acquitted, by the way due to the loss of the star witness. Or did he ‘do a Reggie’ and fake his own death?

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. So if ever you happen to find yourself in Brazil or similar and you see a guy in his late seventies with a hook instead of a left hand, try saying ‘Hi Ken’.

Let me know how it goes.

Posted by Las Olas Boulevard in : History News,

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    Set midway between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the fabulous Las Olas Boulevard, this quiet and secluded complex is right on the waterfront and enjoys charming Mid-Century Modern features. Fully moder...
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    Las Olas Boulevard - there's no other place quite like it. Las Olas offers you the very best in dining, antiques, shopping, fashion, the arts, history and much more.

    Las Olas Boulevard is located just seconds from the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beach and enjoys the wonderful South Florida weather. When you visit us on the boulevard, why not come by boat? The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi will bring you right here.

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    The boulevard has a lot of history too. Stay at the Riverside Hotel - built in 1936, or visit the Stranahan House Museum and see where Fort Lauderdale itself began. Enjoy breakfast, at any time of day or night, in the historic Floridian diner. See the Elbo Room, the place featured in Where the Boys Are - the iconic Spring Break movie made in 1960.

    Las Olas Boulevard has something to suit all tastes, all ages and all budgets. Dance the night away or enjoy a quiet drink in a relaxing bar. Experience fine dining in one of our many restaurants, or grab a pizza, sandwich, panini or salad. Enjoy cuisine from all over the world right here. And don't miss the treats we have for you - chocolates, ice creams, frozen yogurts, candies, pastries - all made right here on Las Olas. Eat at a sidewalk café, people-watch, visit our world-class museum of art, take the kids to the science museum for a day of fun, sit and watch the water traffic go by on the New River ... there's so much to do.

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    We'll look forward to seeing you on Las Olas!