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Police: Suspect Admits to Taking Part in Florida Slaying

July 11, 1996

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) _ A man caught driving a Mercedes-Benz admitted he took part in the slaying of a German lawyer who was on vacation in Florida when the same car was commandeered at gunpoint, police said today.

Alford Rhiner gave police a statement admitting his involvement in the shooting and implicated another man, Jamie Lee, who was arrested this morning in Fort Myers, Fla.

``We questioned him (Rhiner) twice. The first time he didn’t admit anything,″ Police Chief Harry Montgomery said. ``The second time he got somewhat emotional about it and admitted it. He cried.″

No charges were filed immediately against Rhiner or Lee. But police intended to charge Rhiner with carjacking, robbery and felony murder, Montgomery said.

Rhiner, described as about 20, was taken into custody Wednesday along with a friend from Gatlinburg who was not involved in the slaying but rode with Rhiner from Fort Myers in the stolen car, Montgomery said.

Gerd-Ulrich Ladwig, 50, of the northern city of Hanover, Germany, was on vacation since June 30 with his wife, Sylvia, and their 12-year-old son. The family was staying at the Fort Myers home of Mrs. Ladwig’s brother, Dr. Heinz Dieter Vogtland, who was on vacation overseas.

Ladwig told his wife he was having trouble sleeping and left shortly before midnight Monday to have a drink at the upscale restaurant Peter’s La Cuisine in the city on Florida’s southwest coast. He never showed up.

His body was found in a remote area on the outskirts of the city Tuesday morning, and police said blood found at the scene suggested he was shot there.

Gatlinburg police were tipped by Florida authorities on Wednesday and within minutes, officers spotted the silver 1989 Mercedes-Benz at a convenience store.

Rhiner, of Fort Myers, and his friend offered no resistance as they got out of the car, Montgomery said. Three girls who were vacationing in Gatlinburg and met the pair only two hours before were also in the car, police said.

Montgomery could not say if a 9mm pistol found in the car had been fired.

Florida authorities arrived in this mountain resort town some 30 miles southeast of Knoxville and 800 miles north of Fort Myers to question the men. Montgomery said Rhiner was expected to waive extradition.

Authorities in Florida said the family planned to take Ladwig’s body back to Germany for burial.

The slaying, the third tourist killing in the state this year, rekindled concerns about Florida’s fun-and-sun image abroad that only recently rebounded from a string of tourist-related killings in 1992 and 1993.

The state’s tourism industry was hurt by a string of 10 tourist-related slayings over those two years, including that of four Germans.

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