Photo courtesy of the Murdered in Mississippi Facebook page
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.
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