Real estate can be deadly: British tycoon kills stubborn tenant

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Businesses, insurers, and other analysts have often sought to put a price tag on the value of a human life. In the health-care debate, for example, the magic number is $129,000; by comparison, when Ford designed the Pinto, its number-crunchers determined that the company's customers (or at least the lawsuits that they were likely to generate) were worth $200,000 apiece. Meanwhile, as people sell kidneys for as little as $6,000, it seems like a life might be worth even less if it is sold a la carte.

In 2000, faced with an inconvenient tenant who stood in the way of a $3.8 million deal, British businessman Thanos Papalexis determined that a human life was worth approximately $500,000. That was the amount that he stood to make on a real estate deal. This assumed, however, that he was able to get rid of Charalambos Christodoulides, the shy, quiet man who lived near a London warehouse that Papalexis was trying to sell.
On March 10, 2000, Papalexis brokered the deal, but Christodoulides, who friends called "Bambi," refused to leave his apartment on the grounds. Soon after, the 55-year old man went missing. After a few days, his family reported his disappearance to the police, and his body was found two weeks later in the inspection pit of a nearby garage. He had been beaten and strangled, his corpse soaked with paint thinner to throw police dogs off the scent.

In the meantime, Papalexis' deal fell through, and he moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he quickly found a place in the area's community of wealthy sun-worshippers and party people. Showing an eye for real estate, he became CEO of the Siseman corporation, which specialized in boutique properties. Papalexis quickly positioned himself as king of his world, installing a throne in his office, renting an impressive mansion, and throwing lavish galas that were filled with A-list partygoers, including Paris Hilton and famed designer Valentino. In 2007, he even managed to snag Bill Clinton when he held a fundraiser for Hilary's presidential run.

By 2009, however, it had all begun to fall apart. He was fighting against creditors, and was in arrears on rent for his mansion. Worse yet, his girlfriend -- a former porn star and prostitute who charged almost $2,500 per night -- had turned on him. During a fight, the woman, Rebecca deFalco, asked him if he'd ever killed anyone and Papalexis told her the story of Bambi, a "nobody" who "got in the way."

In many ways, DeFalco represented another side of Papalexis' life. In addition to his gilded lifestyle as a member of Palm Beach's elite, he was also a sadist who described himself on one website as "The King of his own realm." Certainly, his darker pursuits played a part in Christodoulides' murder: before strangling the shy, lonely man, Papalexis brutally tortured him.

On Friday, a British court found Paplexis guilty of the crime, but failed to reach a verdict on his Albanian henchmen. He will be sentenced later this month.

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