DIXIE MAFIA EXPOSED – JUSTICE FOR THE SHERRY MURDERS

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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CLARION-LEDGER MAY 22, 1991

Article re-blogged from Synova Ink with Permission


The battle raged for ten long years, but two warriors refused to abandon the case. Lynn Sherry Sposito and FBI agent Keith Bell kept fighting until justice was served for the murders of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret.


How did this criminal enterprise finally crumble? Although it would take a decade to find justice for the Sherry murders, the foundations began to erode when investigators learned of the Dixie Mafia’s involvement. The first clue came in rather quickly after a neighbor spoke to Lynn Sposito about a strange car in the area on the night of her parent’s murder.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reported on the abandoned car believed to be the getaway car. It was found on September 22, 1987, within a couple of miles from the Sherry house. This 1981 Ford Fairmont would lead straight back to the Dixie Mafia and would get the case rolling.

 PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GREENWOOD COMMONWEALTH SEPTEMBER 24, 1987

Not only was this vehicle found close to the murder scene, but it also matched the description given by the neighbor. Strangely, the dome light had been purposely dismantled and the bulb removed. Whoever was driving this car did not want to be seen when he opened the car door.

The car had been stolen off a lot shortly before the murder. Some reports say it was stolen the day before, but in the book Mississippi Mud, it says the car was stolen on the same day. This is not the only discrepancy reported in the book and newspapers. You must remember that both the newspapers and the book were written as the story broke, so they could only write what was known at the time. It is easier to write a story decades afterward in my opinion.

The license plates on this stolen car were registered to another abandoned vehicle from three years earlier. This stolen Firebird had been abandoned in front of an apartment complex. A known Dixie Mafia member named Lenny Sweatman had stripped the car for parts before it was towed away. That tangled web is what led the investigators to the doorstep of the Dixie Mafia. Sweatman would lead to the club owner, Mike Gillich. Gillich would lead back to Kirksey Nix and his Lonely Hearts scam.

The scam was on the police radar for a while and investigators wondered if the murder was connected, but they had no proof. It would take a couple of snitches, a little legal wrangling, and a lot of patience to bring down the killers.

Bobby Joe Fabian was serving a life sentence in Angola prison when he decided to work with investigators in hopes of shortening his sentence. Fabian was the informant who would officially link the scam to the murders. He told of Kirksey Nix’s involvement and implicated Pete Halat. He also told authorities that known hitman, John Ransom was the triggerman. This would later be proved false, but it was enough to get the ball rolling.

Bill Rhodes, an associate of Ransom turned states evidence and claimed he had been hired to drive the getaway car. He claims to have met with Mike Gillich and Pete Halat several months before the murder. Rhodes was to drive and Ransom was to kill the Sherry’s, but this plan fell through when John Ransom was arrested five months before the death of the Sherrys.

As it turns out, Ransom provided the weapon used to kill the judge and his wife, but was not the triggerman as first alleged. Eventually, investigators persuaded Mike Gillich to turn informant. When he finally told his side of the story he spoke in great detail even telling how the hitman put superglue on his fingers so he wouldn’t leave prints behind in the house. He also gives the name of the actual triggerman. Thomas Leslie Holcomb was offered $20,000 to kill the Sherrys.

Nix and the crew were indicted in May 1991, but Pete Halat somehow escaped the noose. It was difficult for investigators seeing the Mayor’s smiling face on the news knowing he was involved in murder, but knowing they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. Finally, their day came when Gillich spilled the beans and Pete Halat was convicted in 1997.

Halat was working with Nix’s former girlfriend Sheri La Sharpe. Together they would stash the money in a safety deposit box, but Halat got greedy and moved the money to a different safety deposit box that only he had access to. Conveniently there was one other name on the box. Judge Vincent Sherry. Sherry had been Halat’s law partner before he left to become a judge. This would give Halat an “out” when Nix eventually noticed the money was missing. Now Halat could blame the innocent judge for the theft and Halat could get off scot-free.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ENTERPRISE-JOURNAL SEPT 23, 1997

Although the Sherrys got justice, this story will continue next week with the only man to have inside information on this case. His knowledge would eventually lead to his death and his murder would be labeled suicide. Find out more about Lt. Dan Anderson’s connection to this case and his murder next week.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

Sun Herald Article

WLOX

Caselaw

Djournal.com

newspapers.com


This week’s Recommended Documentary:

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Biloxi Confidential

This week’s Recommended Reading:


Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


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LONELY HEART SCAM LEADS TO THE MURDER OF A JUDGE AND HIS WIFE

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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MURDERED IN MISSISSIPPI FACEBOOK PAGE

This post has been re-blogged from Synova Ink with permission

Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret were assassinated in their own home on the night of September 14, 1987. It would take ten years to finally bring all of the culprits to justice, but thirty years later there’s still a part of the story that hasn’t been told. Who found the bodies first? I will give you one guess and it isn’t who you think.


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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CLARION-LEDGER SEPTEMBER 17, 1989

The official story says Pete Halat and a junior partner found the bodies of Judge Sherry and his wife on September 16, 1987. Thirty years later a new voice has arisen to tell a different story. Lt. Dan Anderson was working as the bailiff for Judge Sherry and was worried when he didn’t show up for court. He called Pete Halat thinking he would know where to find the judge since he wasn’t answering the phone. Halat brushed off his questions claiming the Judge had a habit of being late. Finally, Anderson gets upset and tells Halat he is going to drive over to the house and check on Vincent and Margret. This sparks concern in the law partner. Halat tells him to wait and he would go along too.

Together the two men meet at the Sherrys’ house. Anderson knocks on the door and it opens. Inside he discovers the horrific scene. Overwhelmed with grief from the death of his friend, Anderson is told to go home. Halat promised to take care of everything. Instead, he waits until the next day and took a junior partner along to conveniently find the bodies.

Lt. Anderson returns home distraught after seeing the corpses of his friends. Before he could get himself together, his daughter Phyllis happened to call. On this rare occasion, Dan Anderson poured out his emotional story to his daughter giving details of the crime scene. Phyllis listened and tried to console her father and promised to call and check on him later that evening. When evening came, her father was back to his tight-lipped self and refused to speak of it again. Phyllis had no way of knowing that her father was being forced into silence. She assumed it was his quiet way of dealing with trauma.

Over three hundred people would attend the funeral service for the Sherrys. The event was held at the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral on Howard Ave. in Biloxi. The Clarion-Ledger also reported the strange eulogy given by Pete Halat. He wasn’t scheduled to speak at this service but chose to stand and speak anyways. His extremely long speech seemed to be more of a campaign speech for his upcoming mayoral campaign. He railed about the corruption in Biloxi and spoke of the deceased couple rarely. It made everyone including investigators begin to turn a wary eye on the lawyer.

Last week we left you with the story of the abandoned Ford Fairmont. To recap, it was seen by a neighbor the night the Sherry’s were murdered. This tip would lead back to a man by the name of Lenny Sweatman. Investigators knew if Sweatman was involved then another Dixie Mafia member would be close by. Mike Gillich owned the Golden Nugget nightclub and was good friends with the notorious Sweatman.

The case reached a stagnant point and looked like it might be going cold, but Lynn Sposito, the Sherry’s daughter kept pushing forward. She knew she must get enough evidence to draw in the FBI. They were working behind the scenes but didn’t officially join the investigation until August 1989 when they found definite ties to the Dixie Mafia.

During the murder investigation, another case was running parallel to this story. Kirksey Nix, Jr. had been running a scam from behind the bars of the Angola Prison. Nix had acquired hundreds of thousands of dollars through this scam. His goal was to “buy” his way out of his life sentence. With the rampant corruption in Mississippi at the time, this was quite possible to do. The investigators would label it the Lonely Hearts Scam.

The Scam:

Nix found a way to take advantage of lonely gay men by placing singles ads in the local gay magazines. He would talk of how corrupt the place was and how mistreated he was for being gay. Of course, Kirksey Nix was not homosexual in the least, he simply played a part to con money out of these pen pals. To make matters even more treacherous, he would then turn around afterward and blackmail the men if they were still “in the closet.”

Now inmates cannot have that kind of cash just lying around their cells, so Nix put together a complex scheme to shuffle the cash into a safety deposit box. Who’s name was on the box? Pete Halat and Nix’s girlfriend Sheri La Ra Sharpe. The plan was to store the cash in the safety deposit box until it was time to buy Nix out of his legal troubles, but Halat became greedy and stole $100,000 from the box. To cover his tracks he moved the cash to a box assigned to himself and his law partner Judge Sherry. That way when Nix noticed the money missing he could blame it on the judge.

This all sounds good in theory, but there was one problem. They didn’t have the evidence to put Halat away. It would take ten long years before investigators could find enough to convict him. In the meantime, Pete Halat continued his mayoral campaign and became the 12th mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi.

This complicated the investigation greatly and the FBI had to keep their findings close to home. They couldn’t work as close to local law enforcement as they would have hoped knowing that Halat had confederates in the force.

Next week I will dive more into the investigations, the snitches, and the battles that finally brought down Nix and Halat. Stay tuned guys.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

FBI Files

Newsweek article

FBI page

NY Times

Revolvy Article

WLBT

Wikipedia

Biloxi confidential


This week’s Recommending Reading:

Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


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JUDGE’S MURDER EXPOSED DIXIE MAFIA TO THE WORLD

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MURDERED IN MISSISSIPPI FACEBOOK PAGE

This article has been re-blogged from Synova Ink with Permission

The judge and his wife are executed in their beautiful home on Hickory Hills Circle in Biloxi, Mississippi. Two days would pass before they were officially discovered and it would take years before the entire case exposed the corruption in Mississippi. Who killed Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret? Why is the official date of discovery two days later when we know someone else found the bodies a day earlier?


On the evening of September 14, 1987, Judge Sherry and his wife were settling in for the night when tragedy struck. Sometime after 7PM, a gunman entered the upscale home in the Ancient Oaks Subdivision and shot the couple with a .22 caliber pistol. The judge was shot several times in his living room still dressed in the clothes he wore to court earlier that day. Margaret Sherry was shot several times and later found near the bed.

Who would do this type of thing?

The Sherrys were never punctual and at some point, the judge had canceled his court appointments for the next day. Because of this, it would take two days before the bodies were officially discovered by the judge’s law partner Pete Halat. Notice I say “officially.” Someone else had discovered the bodies the day before, but this was hushed up until decades later. You’ll have to wait until next week to discover the end to that tale.

When the judge didn’t arrive at court by 11 am on September 16,1987, Pete Halat and a junior partner drive out to the judge’s house. The door was unlocked and Pete pushed it open. He stepped inside the living room and quickly walked back out telling the other man to call the police because “The Judge and Margret were murdered.”

News broke of the mafia-style slayings and pandimonium quickly spread throughout the city. Judges and public officials were being guarded by law enforcement. No one knew why this couple was targeted. Judge Sherry had made a career by defending the criminal element in the city. Any of them could have it out for the judge. Margret was a former city councilwoman and was about to run for mayor. Mrs. Sherry was very vocal about her stand against illegal gambling and vices that came along with the casinos. If she won the election it would be bad news for the corrupt business owners and officials. Was the intended target?

The Clarion-Ledger would eventually report the officials had begun their investigation by looking into the Sherry’s own son as a suspect. He was ruled out rather quickly. Because it was such a high-profile case involving a judge the FBI was unofficially involved in the investigation from the beginning. They would get “officially” involved in August of 1989 and launch their own investigation into the case and the corruption in the city.

Investigators canvassed the neighborhood around the Sherry home, but no one would say anything. They didn’t even want to be seen talking to law enforcement on the sidewalk. If they knew anything, they were too afraid to say. If a high-powered, well-respected judge and his wife could be murdered in their own home, what hope did the common citizen have for protection?

The Sherry’s daughter came into town and began her own investigation and found people were a little more comfortable talking to her than talking to the police. A neighbor spoke with Lynn Sposito and mentioned a strange car in the area on the fateful Monday night when her parents were killed. Lynn took the information to the police and to the FBI investigator, Keith Bell.

Within a week the authorities found an abandoned yellow 1981 Ford Fairmont. It matched the description of the witness, but the police had to be sure. Strangely the interior light had been purposely dismantled and the bulb removed. Whoever drove this car didn’t want his face seen when the car door was opened. The car was stolen the day prior to the murders, and the licenses plates had been stolen off a different car three years earlier.

Investigators traced the license plates back to the last known records. They found the firebird had been abandoned in front of an apartment complex managed by Lenny Sweatman. The name Sweatman started setting off alarm bells for law enforcement. Sweatman was a well-known member of the rugged Dixie Mafia. Investigators contacted Sweatman and inquired about the Firebird. He claimed to have called a friend to come over and strip the car for parts before having it towed away.

Now the investigators know about the Dixie Mafia and the corruption in Biloxi, but soon the world would know the name “Dixie Mafia,” because this case would blow the top off the crooked politics, and corruption in Mississippi. Stay tuned. Next week we will continue our journey into the ten-year struggle it took to finally win justice for the good judge and his wife.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/99196064/vincent-jerome-sherry

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/99196183/margaret-joyce-sherry

This week’s Recommending Reading:

Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


DO LEGENDS REALLY DIE? THE DEATH OF BUFORD PUSSER


This article has been re-blogged from Synova Ink with Permission

Do legends die, or do they get distorted over time until no truth remains? The legendary lawmen Buford Pusser was killed in a fiery crash on August 21st, 1974. Although everyone in town knew he had a price on his head, the case was closed quickly and the records were sealed by court order. Why?


In Buford Pusser case, the controversy surrounding his life was insane enough, but now his detractors are pouring manufactured facts, rumor mill stories, and manipulated truths into the story trying to defame a rough-and-tumble lawman.

On August 20th, 1974, Buford Pusser and his daughter Dwana went to the McNairy County Fair. Earlier that day, Pusser had announced he had just signed a contract with Bing Crosby Productions to portray himself in the next Walking Tall movie.

Many locals saw him at the fair. He played basketball with some of them and seemed fine around 7 p.m. However, by 10 o’clock that night, some people noticed he began to slur his words a little bit and wondered if he had been drinking. The people at the food stand remember him ordering two BBQ sandwiches and a fish sandwich along with two glasses of water. He was seen carrying around this disposable cup most of the evening, but the only thing he was known to order was water.

Another witness claimed he saw Buford Pusser leave that evening and he tore out of the parking lot like some rowdy teenager. Although Buford Pusser drove his souped-up Corvette at high rates of speed, he was never that reckless. Others notice at the fair that Buford seemed a little off the longer the evening wore on. These witness statements and others lead people to believe that perhaps Buford Pusser had been poisoned.

One investigator who later would be completely discredited claimed to have proof he had been poisoned with a rare South American Indian poison called Cuare. Like with everyone else who went up against the Dixie Mafia, this investigator was publicly discredited and humiliated. Strangely, this investigator would wind up being shot execution-style a short time later. Everyone was quick to point out that it had nothing to do with the Pusser investigation. I think otherwise.

Just after midnight, Dwana and Buford decide to leave the fair. Dwana gets a ride with a friend and leaves shortly before her father. A few miles down the road Buford Pusser caught up with them and passed them at a high rate of speed. It took a few miles to catch up to the Corvette, but by then it was too late.

Some reports say the car was already on fire, but others say it started a few minutes later underneath the hood. The legendary lawmen lay on the ground near his beloved Corvette with a broken neck. Could he really be gone? It didn’t seem possible.

Rumors began immediately after his death. The tie rods had been sawed in two. The brake lines had been cut. He was poisoned. Investigators say Buford Pusser was drunk and driving to fast he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and he was ejected from the car no foul play, but no one in the town believed it several stateliners had contracts out on Buford Pusser and this was a well-known fact.

Some estimated car was traveling close to 100 mph others say it was a 120 mph. Whatever the case, why would he fly past the car he knew his daughter was in like a maniac? Wouldn’t that put his child in danger? It didn’t seem like Buford Pusser was really in his right mind that night.

This was the argument many people claimed proved poison theory. At the time of his death, Buford Pusser’s blood-alcohol level was 1.8. For a giant of a man 6 ft 6 in tall 250 lb that would not have affected him very much.

Rumor had it the brake lines had been cut on his car but if this was the case why were there 545 feet of skid marks left down the highway?

PHOTO COURTSEY OF ROADSIDEAMERICA.COM

The manufacturing company investigated the wreckage and said there was no manufacturing default, and it didn’t look like it had been tampered with. Of course, if there had been a default, would they have admitted it? I doubt it. They would have to take responsibility for killing a legend. Besides all of that, if you look at pictures, there isn’t anything left of this vehicle. How could they tell if it had been tampered with? They said the tie rods were broken, but they think they were broken upon impact.

The accident was reconstructed and mapped out using photographs. The low flying machine had crossed into the opposite lane, crossed the grassy ditch, and passed an old gas station. Then it crossed the side road and slammed into an embankment. The big man was ejected from the vehicle and broke his neck upon impact. The legend had just enough strength left to whisper his daughter’s name.

Was Buford Pusser murdered? We may never know. Many have fought and spent thousands of dollars trying to find the truth, but this secret is buried deep in the Tennessee dirt.

What is the purpose of mankind? Humanity’s purpose is to serve others and leave a mark on this world. Whatever your opinion of this great lawman you must agree on one point. He definitely left a mark in history. He inspired thousands of people to stand up for what they believe in. Many people credit their law enforcement careers to his inspiration. What can you say? Have you done anything remarkable with your life? Walk on Buford the Bull.

I cannot possibly fit the entirety of this story in a blog post, so be watching out for a book. I will be writing about this famous lawman, his family, his enemies, and the stories that shaped McNairy County, Tennessee. When reading about this man’s exploits, an old Elvis Presley song came to mind. I would like to quote the lyrics here.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid
Of the dark
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song
Of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed
And blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone

LISTEN TO THE SONG HERE:

(WIKIPEDIA SAYS THE SINGLE “YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE” WAS AN ADAPTATION OF THE OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II AND RICHARD RODGERSSTANDARD.)

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

IMG_20190316_075643_170.jpg

SIGN UP HERE


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

WMC Action News

This week’s recommended Dixie Mafia Books include:

Walking On: A Daughter’s Journey with Legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser

Ghost Tales of The State Line Mob: Novel Based on Actual Events