If just for an instant, soap fans were aghast: Billy Clyde Tuggle was dead.
Miami police said so, and the TV and radio repeated it.
Billy Clyde was a no-good, rotten scoundrel on the ABC soap, All My Children. The legendary villain first appeared in 1977, when he was a sleazy pimp who drugged an ex-hooker. He wreaked havoc off and on until 1990, when he drowned in a dramatic showdown.
Miami police announced Wednesday that the actor who played him was dead, too, murdered in his Coconut Grove condo. But the man who played Tuggle -- Matthew Cowles -- lives in Connecticut. And he's alive and married to actress Christine Baranski.
"What can I tell you? Death comes to the least of us and the greatest of us," the real Billy Clyde told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. "One day, it will be true, I guess."
Cowles says he's never even heard of Max Maislin, the man found bound, gagged and killed in his Bird Avenue townhouse Tuesday, in a crime scene police say was deliberately staged to be shocking.
Police said they got the erroneous information about the Billy Clyde role from Maislin's friends: He'd apparently fibbed about it.
A regular at the Taurus bar, police said Maislin gave voice lessons, was a teacher in Broward schools, and was a supervisor at First Paragon, a flower wholesaler. He was often spotted with a parrot on his shoulder while walking his poodle through the Grove.
The parrot was found dead too -- perhaps a victim of the poodle, police said.
"It was a very unique scene," said Sgt. Jorge Morin. "There was a lot of display. Whoever did it wanted to shock the conscience of whoever found it."
Morin won't say how Maislin was killed, except that he was not shot or stabbed.
Morin described Maislin as a man "who would take advantage of those who showed weakness" by mooching money for everything from dog food to his mortgage payments.
"He was a decent human being on the skids," Morin said. "I think he picked up a lover, and things didn't go the way he hoped."
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has a record of Maislin, but does not keep track of what he played in. ABC-TV has never heard of him.
"I have a feeling this guy had a little teeny part on the show, and when he tells the story, it was a huge character," said police spokesman Angel Calzadilla. "But you know, he kind of looks like him."
Anyone with information about the case can call Morin at 305-579-6530 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 305-471-TIPS.