Ex-Biloxi Mayor Indicted in Death of Judge, Wife
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) _ Former Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat Jr. and three other people were indicted today on federal charges in the deaths nine years ago of a judge and his wife, a former councilwoman.
The indictment accused Halat of participating in a telephone scam that preyed on lonely homosexuals and agreeing to the contract murders of the Circuit Judge Vincent Sherry _ a onetime law partner of Halat’s _ and his wife, Margaret. The two, both 58, were shot to death in their home in September 1987.
In 1991, four people were found guilty of conspiring to kill Sherry and operating the jailhouse scam, which bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from gays who answered fake personal ads.
Today’s indictment, under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, accuses the defendants of crimes ranging from murder and conspiracy to commit murder to money laundering.
Two of the four were indicted today on the new charges _ Kirskey McCord Nix Jr., a Louisiana prison inmate who was the alleged mastermind of the scam, and Sheri LaRa Sharpe, who once worked in Halat’s law office and allegedly assisted in the scam.
Halat, who was mayor from 1989 to 1993, is an attorney, and Nix was a client of his. Halat’s lawyer, David Chessnoff, said Halat had cooperated with authorities and was being unfairly harassed for defending his client.
``He’s a criminal lawyer,″ Chessnoff said Monday. ``This case is becoming more and more typical of Washington policy, which is to make deals with the most horrible people in the world to hurt people who aren’t horrible.″
Halat has always said he knew nothing about the scam or the plan to murder the Sherrys.
A parade of convicts testified for the prosecution during the 1991 trial. One of them said Nix ordered Sherry murdered after some of the scam money ``came up missing″ and Nix was convinced that Sherry took it. Today’s indictment said Halat told Nix that Sherry had taken the money. It did not indicate whether Sherry had actually done anything wrong.
Also charged today were Thomas Leslie Holcomb, 44, of Evadale, Texas, accused of carrying out the slayings and accepting $20,000 for them; and Glen Joseph Cook, a former Biloxi resident now in federal prison on unrelated charges. Cook was accused of helping arrange the killings.
Nix is serving life without parole for murder in Louisiana State Prison. He was accused of masterminding the scam from there. Other defendants on the outside pretended to set up dates with homosexuals who answered the fake personal ads, prosecutors said. But then the targets of the scam were told that the man who placed the ad had run into trouble and needed money to keep the date.
Ms. Sharpe was charged today only with obstruction of justice, for allegedly lying at the first trial. Among her alleged untruths: that Halat had no knowledge of the scam.