The Sonny Crockett FAQ
by Jason Hatakeyama, Original version 2/6/97
This is a compilation of the life history of Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett, based on the series (and some educated guesses). Please feel free to send in comments and criticism.
James “Sonny” Crockett, 35, began the series in the fall of 1984 as a seasoned 10-year veteran of South Florida law enforcement. For the past six years he worked undercover on the Metro Dade County Vice squad, infiltrating the drugs, gambling and prostitution networks in the Miami vicinity. His supervisor, Lieutenant Lou Rodriguez, at the Organized Crime Bureau (OCB), set him up with: a sailboat as his undercover home, a rare Ferrari as his transportation and a Chris-Craft cigarette boat as his drug running credentials. Sonny was a hard line, by the book cop whose disdain for crookedness, ineptitude and laggardness was voiced with typical bouts of emotionalism.
Sonny Crockett grew up in south Florida as an all-American boy. He spent summers at weenie roasts with his older brother Jake and cousins (Jack Crockett) and was considered “most likely to succeed” by his family. Although little is known about his parents, Sonny reminisced about playing snooker with his Dad while he was growing up in South Florida, although his father died circa 1968 .
Crockett was a standout wide receiver for the University of Flordia with good pro-ball possibilities. Sonny’s 15 minute claim to fame was a screen pass he caught in the Gator Bowl and took it 95 yards for the game winning touchdown. He was awarded the game ball which remained one of his prized possessions until he gave it away. However, #88’s career was cut short by a knee injury which Sonny sometimes referred in the series as “acting up.” His pet alligator, Elvis, was originally the Florida team mascot and when threatened with destruction for biting a player, Sonny adopted him and kept him on his houseboat.
In conflict with his knee injury, Sonny claimed he was on his way to being drafted by the pro leagues. Instead, he was drafted by the “Southeast Asia” league for a two-year stint in Vietnam. Sonny served in the Army and spent several tours “in country.” His service record is sketchy, but we do know he witnessed the fall of Saigon. During his service several characters he associated with and befriended would later surface in Miami. Ira Stone, an investigative reporter who apparently dabbled with drugs uncovered a plot in which an unscrupulous sergeant was hiding heroin in dead soldiers for shipment back to the USA. Colonel Maynard was a CIA operative that participated in Vietnam in covert operations and would return as a mercenary in several later episodes. We can speculate that Sonny served in some Army intelligence capacity as evidenced by his marksmanship and a comment he made as maintaining his humanity by refusing to push interrogated Vietnamese out of helicopters. He made numerous friends who would later prove to be helpful in his police capacity.
Upon the completion of his tours, Sonny returned to the States in 1974 as a war hero. He returned to Miami and entered the police academy, probably due to his expertise and training while in the Army. He taught rookie cops after graduation, and was eventually assigned to Robbery downtown, under the tutelage of Lieutenant John Malone, who was his mentor and who taught him investigative police work. Crockett suffered his first bullet wound circa 1976 .
After four years in Robbery, Crockett transferred to County Vice in 1978, where he worked with Lt. Lou Rodriguez for six years. One of his early partners was Scott Wheeler , who was arrested in 1984 after it was discovered he was leaking police information to a known criminal as a DEA agent. Another partner was killed by Frank Hackman in 1978 . Another partner, and fellow academy graduate, Evan Freed, died in Crockett’s arms .
At Metro Dade’s Organized Crime Bureau Division (OCB), Crockett took the undercover identity of Sonny “Burnett”, an enterprising freelancer that used a 38-foot cigarette boat to smuggle contraband into the States for a percentage “cut”. As part of his cover he was given a wardrobe, a 42-foot Endeavor yacht, christened the “St. Vitus’ Dance” in the marina and a black Ferrari Daytona to complete his guise. When the series commenced he had been undercover so long that there were days he woke up not remembering who he was supposed to be as time and events blurred by. He seemed to be on the verge of burnout and had lost much of his youthful idealism towards law enforcement. To be sure, he was not an out of control maverick, but rather slowly being jaded by the bludgeoning procedures and manipulation of the system by the rich drug lords for profit and plunder.
After returning from Vietnam, Crockett married his high school sweetheart, Caroline in 1975. Together they had a son Billy who was born three years later, in 1978. A few years later, the hard lifestyle and demands of undercover police work forced Caroline to request a separation. They finally filed for divorce after Billy’s sixth birthday. Caroline was eventually remarried in 1987 to Bob Ballard and became pregnant two years later. Sonny was asked by Caroline to visit Billy who was having a difficult time coming to grips with the situation. Sonny rekindled their father-son relationship and eased the anxiety Billy was facing.
In 1984, Sonny and Caroline had been separated for some time, and in the interim, he had formed a close relationship with his co-worker Gina Calabrese. They continued their respectful romance throughout the years, until Sonny’s second marriage to Caitlin Davies in 1987.
In 1985 Sonny fell for a high class socialite, Brenda. He got caught up in the romance and whirlwind which followed, but realized that they had different lives to lead. They played an interesting game of “Sonny and Brenda get Married.” She asked him his opinion of who their friends would be after marriage and what things they would do. Crockett replied that they’d have several kids right away, and when they weren’t at department picnics having weenie roasts, they’d take the kids to Disneyland. Brenda, used to a more refined lifestyle, tried to suggest their vacations would be just the two of them, in Paris, or Rome. Sonny shrugged, knowing the demands of his work would never allow him to take vacation for any real length of time. Besides, his salary as a detective would barely cover airfare.
He met and nearly proposed to Dr. Theresa Lyons in 1986. In a twist of irony, his newfound love is an accidental drug addict, due to chronic prescription drugs used for pain control. She winds up buying off the street and is forced to compromise Sonny’s position as an undercover detective when she reveals a police evidence warehouse location in exchange for drugs. The seemingly trivial bit of information leads to the death of several officers. Theresa, her medical career nearly ruined and her personal life on the same par, is sent to Hartford, CT for rehabilitation.
Crockett’s next love interest mixed both professional and personal life when his new girlfriend was linked to two drug-related murders.
In the fall of 1987 he met Caitlin Davies, a pop singer, whom he was assigned to protect while she awaited the trial of Tommy Lowe. Crockett smugly patronized her at first, but gradually began to feel an attraction. The love prospered quickly, and Sonny proposed to Caitlin, and she accepted. Things were going well for Caitlin with her new album and a successful tour. Newly pregnant, she met Sonny at her Miami concert. However, after the show, Caitlin was shot in the back and died in Sonny’s arms. The killer, Frank Hackman, killed her in retaliation for the death of his own wife which he blamed on Crockett.
Following the death of Caitlin, Sonny became emotionally drained. During this time he set up a meet with two opposing drug lords and was nearly killed when the sabotaged boat exploded. The blast robbed him of his memory, and when he awoke, he fell into his Burnett alter ego. In the midst of the power struggle, “Burnett” shrewdly ascended to the top of the Carrera clan, killing Det. James Yanovich and shooting Tubbs (who was saved by his Kevlar vest) along the way. Sonny eventually regained his identity, but his recent memory became clouded. He returned to OCB, dazed, confused, and especially hurt over his attempted murder of Rico.
After he recovered from his amnesia, he is investigated by Internal Affairs and interrogated by Schroeder, who is demonstrably out to “hang” Crockett. Sonny is forced to take a leave of absence from the department, but winds up in the middle of a fracas with escaped convicts who are out to recover a large stash of cash.
Sonny and Rico end their Miami law enforcement career in 1989 after they are recruited for a covert mission to rescue the corrupt dictator of Costa Morada, General Manuel Borbon. Their quarry was sought by the U.S. Special Drug Enforcement Task Force to provide the “key to penetrating the Medellin Cartel’s innermost circle.” Crockett and Tubbs escaped with Borbon back to Miami, but were double crossed by their handler, Colonel Andrew Baker. Both Crockett and Tubbs tossed their badges to the ground as a final show of disgust and turned away Lt. Castillo’s intervention.
Rico was contemplating going back to the Bronx, but Sonny, now 40 and finally burnt out, was unsure of his destination, other than “somewhere further south where the water’s warm, and the drinks are cold.” Sonny offered to drive Rico to MIA in his “stolen” car (now that he was no longer on the force) and repeated his offer of five years ago: “Hey Tubbs, you ever consider a career in southern law enforcement?…” Rico laughed as he recalled his original reply, “Maybe…maybe…”
 To Have and To Hold (1989)
 Jack of All Trades (1989)
 20 years prior to Bad Timing (1988)
 Archie Ellis, high school football standout who was lured into a drug deal by his desire to buy new football cleats in The Good Collar (1986).
 Brother’s Keeper (1984)
 Back in the Work (1985)
 In Down for the Count pt.2 (1987) Sonny has Gina and Trudy seek out a cryptographer he knew in ‘Nam in 1971.
 Jack of All Trades (1989)
 The Home Invaders (1985)
 13 years prior to Miracle Man (1989)
 Brother’s Keeper (1984)
 8 years prior to Forgive Us Our Debts (1986)
 Evan (1985)
 Billy was 6 years old in the fall of 1984 when the series began, and 8 when introduced to Caitlin Davies in 1987.
 Return of Calderon (1984)
 Child’s Play (1987)
 To Have and to Hold (1989)
 Theresa (1987)
 By Hooker By Crook (1987)
 Like a Hurricane (1987)
 Deliver Us From Evil (1988)
 Mirror Image (1988)
 Hostile Takeover (1988)
 Redemption in Blood (1988)
 Heart of Night (1988)
 Bad Timing (1988)
 Freefall (1989)