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.


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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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