Miss Dixie covers the topic of denial and the Sherry murders as Slabbed explores the evolution of the vice trade on the coast.

Yesterday, Sun Herald reporter Anita Lee did a “subsequent event” update of those still living that were involved in the murder conspiracy involving Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret way back in 1987.  The echos of this Dixie Mafia inspired hit still reverberate across the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans to this day. For those of you with an interest in this subject, which inspired several books and at least one documentary, Anita’s story is a must read along with the reader comments as the descendants of the felons involved remain firmly in denial.  This comment sums the whole deal up save for Margaret Sherry IMHO, who paid with her life for her husband’s prior legal associations. That said, with the descendants of Pete Halet proclaiming his innocence in the story’s comments, I thought this comment was most appropriate to highlight here on Slabbed:

The Sherry’s had children too…

Indeed they did and daughter Lynne Sposito’s son Thomas commented on my last post on this topic taking umbrage with me terming his granddad “dirty as the day is long”. While it was not my intent to inflict emotional pain on the family of the victim I stand by my assessment. The story is out there and by “story” I don’t mean Mississippi Mud, the Sherry family sourced book which unfairly IMHO impugned former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey due to his prior history of locking horns politically with Margaret Sherry when she was on the city council. In hindsight Mississippi Mud is the literary equivalent of a blog as it was published when events were still unfolding and before everything became known.  Locals that remember the events real time such as myself often wonder why it was never updated.  I think I figured that one out after my last post.

Back to the story being out there, one of Anita commenters posted a link to an extensive account of the murders and history of the Dixie Mafiosos that felt free to greenlit a sitting Circuit Court Judge written for TRU TV and for those with some time to kill is also a must read. Here are a few snippets:

Sometime later that night, outside the Sherry’s ranch-style, four-bedroom house on fashionable Hickory Hill Circle, a yellow Ford that had been driven off a used car lot earlier in the day and never returned pulled up. Vince got up to answer the door and moments later was lying dead on the floor, felled by shots fired from a silenced.22-caliber Ruger automatic. Margaret, clad only in her underwear in her bedroom, came out to investigate, and she, too, was cut down and left to die. The stranger who fired the fatal shots disappeared into the night.

Who was the killer and why did he do it? The story that unfolded over the next ten years turned out to be more complicated than anyone would have first imagined, with big money at stake, prominent individuals working with career criminals to pull behind-the-scenes scams. Ultimately an intricate web connecting organized crime figures, elected officials and well-connected businesspeople would be unraveled. The city of Biloxi was in for the greatest shock to hit the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Camille had made landfall nearby 18 years earlier.

Indeed the Biloxi Beachfront of the 1980s was both seedy and run down. Local Dixie Mafia Kingpin Mike Gillich was able to politically eliminate his flesh trade competitors on the Biloxi strip, where his strip clubs blended in nicely with the local whorehouse.  There was lots of cross pollination between the two.

Dixie Mafiosos of yore  needed lawyers too and after a life of crime that culminated in the hit on Italian Mobster Frank Corso, whose descendants ran money laundering rackets along the coast based out of Bay St Louis, Kirksey Nix Jr’s life of crime seemingly came to an end. (As a point of disclosure I am personally fond of one of Frank’s descendants and I do not blame the guy for the sins of his forefathers.)  “Seemingly” is a good word because after entering Angola prison Nix began running lonely hearts scams targeting gay men, which was pure evil genius as scamming people with something to hide (in this case being in the closet) minimized the risk the victim would complain to the authorities. Nix needed help to run that scam and into that breech stepped Vincent Sherry. Let’s visit with page 17 of Biloxi confidential to flesh this part of the saga out and reinforce the point I made in my earlier post:

Along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast from the early ’60s to the late ’80s, the clients in need of criminal defense who had the most money were often those whose gains had been ill-gotten through vice and corruption. Those were in fact the kinds of clients on which the Halat & Sherry law firm had seemed to thrive. But, more than simply viewing their criminal defense work as “just a job,” Pete Halat and Vince Sherry seemed to move comfortably among the figures of Biloxi’s shadowy underworld. They were well-liked, respected, and welcomed into the fold. Vince, particularly, seemed fascinated by this underground culture, according to accounts.

Vince also enjoyed the local wildlife he found in that underground culture and that has in turned caused speculation Mrs Sherry had very practical reasons to take on the strip clubs when she was on the Biloxi City Council. It is clear once Vince Sherry drank of that cup, he was sucked in like so many of the subjects in our Louisiana Political Corruption coverage never to remain the same as I continue:

Maybe it’s the element of chance and excitement that comes from living on the edge that draws normally straight-up people to the outlaw culture. Whatever it was in Vince’s case, it kept him and his wife in a comfortable lifestyle; one about which Margaret couldn’t have complained too much, even if she disapproved of the ways her husband’s clients likely came by their money.

One of the ways Vince earned his money was by being on the receiving end of the money Junior Nix was raking in on his lonelyhearts scam from Angola Prison. Vince was often the one who banked the money for Nix. And, the intermediary for most of this; the sweet voice that often answered the phone and handled the transaction details, was none other than Nix’s now-grown-up adolescent worshipper from Fort Smith, Ark., Sheri LaRa Sharpe.

Like I said, the results of those associations had tragic consequences for the Sherry’s, whose daughter later told Judge Pickering she forgave Gillich for his role in the murders.

The 1980’s were also a period of transition on the coast and no place symbolizes that transition more than the City of Biloxi as the illegal gambling and the flesh trades gave way to legalized gambling.  The rapid transformation of the old seedy Biloxi strip into a glitzy casino filled section of beachfront known locally as casino row fueled the legalized gambling movement just to the west in Louisiana.  I mention this because the legalization of gambling simply fueled more political corruption in Louisiana the impacts of which are still being felt.  I  mention all this because Sir James over at the T-P wrote a column yesterday that has me wondering if we simply did not replace one mafia with another as the legal concept of debtor prisons is evidently alive and well when those that are owed the money run a casino:

No need to break legs these days, though. The casinos’ modern enforcer is the district attorney. In a mere generation gambling has been transformed from a crime to a pet cause of law enforcement. The DA makes money as the debt collector, and it doesn’t cost the casinos a penny. Their unlucky customers just get fleeced some more.

The biggest loser snared by this unholy alliance in New Orleans is John Harvey, a car dealer from Mississippi, who owes $1.5 million to Harrah’s. Harvey is a keen blackjack player, but evidently not a particularly good one, for he lost another $1.5 million at Caesars joints in his home state.

Harvey agreed last August to pay the $3 million back, less a 20 percent discount, and delivered an initial installment of $150,000 in Mississippi. He was then to make $100,000 payments every month for the rest of the year, when the balance would be due.

But when he turned up with the second installment, Caesars declared the deal was off and he would have to cough up pronto or face prosecution. Harvey had been spotted committing the most serious of sins — gambling at another company’s casino. That was a violation of a clause in his repayment deal.

Harvey, like so many folks caught up in the old line vices, has an obsessive compulsive disorder: compulsive gambling.  Never mind that the Kenner Convention and Visitors Bureau can be looted by Aaron Broussard cronies and its trade vendors stiffed without one peep from the local DA but by gosh if you owe a casino, the DA can throw your ass in jail collecting a hefty fee in the process.  Harvey’s case has completely flown under the radar here in Mississippi, where the media has been silent on Harvey’s legal problems with Leon Cannizzaro but to the extent Mississippi has a larger casino market, I wonder if there is a similar, silly law here in Mississippi.  This much is clear, gambling at Harrah’s in New Orleans is not much different from the old days gambling with the local Dixie Mafia.

My personal recommendation and one to which I adhere is to not set foot in a casino and I’d especially avoid the ones in places like Louisiana where the strong arm for the local casinos is the local DA.

sop

20 thoughts on “Miss Dixie covers the topic of denial and the Sherry murders as Slabbed explores the evolution of the vice trade on the coast.”

  1. I’d like to add that in response to Mr Sposito’s last comment on my prior post linked above I emailed him with my office phone number but I did not receive a reply or phone call. If so moved he is certainly welcome to comment on this post.

    sop

    1. Has anyone ever investigated a connection between Mr. Nix and Mr. Sherry before Mississippi. There is a good chance they had ties in Paducah, KY, back in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.

  2. I certainly remember this SCANDAL from when I was younger, but I certainly didn’t understand it all then, and I am having a tough time understanding it now. It seems to me that the focal question should be: WHO STOLE NIX’S $100,000? Nix says that it wasn’t the law firm of Sherry & Halet, but I don’t think he’s ever said that it wasn’t one of the partners, or a partner’s wife. The point is that if you steal from unsavory characters, then you should expect “consequences”. So I repeat: WHO STOLE NIX’S $100,000? Consequences also could have flowed from “fooling around” with Gillet’s strippers, and those consequences could have come from a number of directions. The advice that one should not fool around with drug addicted, alcoholic lesbian and/or hetero (or bisexual) strippers is as good today as it was in the late 1980’s, when Judge Sherry and his wife were killed. Last point: DOES ANYONE KNOW WHO STOLE NIX’S $100,000? Ashton O’Dwyer.

    1. It is amazing that this is still an issue: There were two bank boxes opened at Jefferson Bank in the Halat and Sherry busines name. One access was with Lara Sharpe who “borrowed” money on at least one occasion and told Nix who decided she did not need to enter the box. That one was closed out and another opened. This I know with complete accuracy because with the help of Dauby Scheile at Jefferson, I located the second box. While the sign in card listed both my father and Peter Halat as able to go into the box, Pete was the only person that ever signed into the box ( I know, I have a copy of the sign in sheet) which he did with some regularity, at times weekly until their deaths; one month after the murders, the box was closed. Ms. Schiele had reportedly let then DA, Cono Carranna know of the existence of the boxes to see if they needed to be inventoried and was told no they were just business account boxes. Interesting since they sent BPD and HCSO to Kentucky to witness my opening of two bank boxes my father had there since he had recently been in KY. One he had jointly with his mother who lived there and one was jointly with an aunt who never had children. Neither contained anything and both had last been gone into to be inventoried upon my grandmother’s and great aunts deaths some years earlier. My father found it easier to pay the small fee to keep the boxes than close them out as he had hopes of one day retiring to KY. The authorities had hoped to find massive sums of scam money in the boxes. Isn’t it interesting that an easily accessible bank box right there in Biloxi would be overlooked by the authorities as something that might have contained scam money but was not inventoried: The one that only Pete had signed into! Early on it appeared that the authorities were so focused on someone in the family killing them or criminal activity related to my father either through his earlier representation of criminals or that he might have been engaged in criminal activity that significant pieces of the puzzle were overlooked. One can’t help but wonder what the authorities would have found had the box been opened shortly after their deaths? Oh, I forgot to mention that both of these Halat and Sherry boxes, which my father never accessed, had the bank fees paid out of the Kirksey Nix trust account.

      1. Mrs Sposito I have been interested in your mother and father’s case for some time now. I am very sorry for your loss and admire your tenacity in seeking the full truth regarding their murders. I am puzzled by a recent story I read where purportedly your family did not object to the reduction of Mike Gillich’s sentence after he apologized. Indeed it stated that you even “hugged” Gillich. Is this true and if so do you still feel that way given that he split the 20k cost to hire the hit man? He was a vile man by most of the accounts I have read and I simply can’t fathom your family being able to forgive him for his involvement.

      2. I have tried contacting the Sherry family and did contact the granddaughter concerning the death of Vincent Sherry and Margaret… My father was bailiff for judge Sherry the night he was murdered. I have pictures of my daddy in his home playing cards with Mike Gillich, Bobby Jo Fabain and not sure of the other two ,but feel sure one is Kirsky Nix.. My brother was murdered in 1967 in Gulfport, MS… I was told by cold case unit they were 99.9 % it was by member of Dixie Mafia.. I have so much information I was unaware I had until I went through my dad’s things.. Yes my dad was involved, no I’m not proud, yes it got my little brother murdered (case closed as suicide) due to corruption in Sheriff’s Dept.. Father murdered in 2003 after I started asking questions… Does anyone have pictures of ones mentioned or can identify some of them.. The whole thing was and still is based on lies..

        1. Please see Seeking Justice For Ronnie & [email protected]

          or Murdered in Mississippi facebook.com/groups/phylliscook
          My brother & my daddy were murdered by a member of the Dixie Mafia. Ronald Wayne Anderson was murdered by Jeffery Dennis Bass on September 26, 1967 per Gulf Port Police . His case was covered up for 36 years as a suicide due ti the corruption with in the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and my father working under Roy Hobbs at the time. Out of fear my father kept quite about my brothers murder and went along with the Police saying it was suicide until November 27. 2002. He pointed out Jeffery Dennis Bass to me in a Waffle House in Gulf Port, Then 4 months later on April 18, 2003- my father Lt. Dan Anderson was gunned down in his drive way and his death covered up as a suicide also to protect the Dixie Mafia and corruption still to this day going on. I will never stop until I get Justice for their murder. I was told by Cold Case Investigator in February of 2013 -he was 99.9 % sure the Dixie Mafia murdered them. Still no Justice. Anyone with any information please e-mail me – [email protected] or private message me on face book. Reward offered.

  3. Sherry provided legal services to one member of the Dixie Mafia which has never been covered. This guy was facing federal drug charges and got off on probation. Not a day behind bars. It was high priced defense to say the least and one which came with results promised before the legal fee was paid. Sherry became a Judge out of Biloxi.

    There is only one way I know someone with the caseload of Mr. Sherry can get to be a Judge. Governor Bill Allain appointed Vincent Sherry a circuit judge when Ruble Griffin moved up to the Mississippi Supreme Court in July 1986.
    Margaret had served on the city council and unsuccessfully opposed Mayor Gerald Blessey in 1985.[1] In 1986, Margaret sued Blessey over a campaign ad which stated, “Margaret Sherry and her husband profit from representing vice.” The ad was critical of Vincent Sherry’s legal representation of businesses regulated by the city’s anti-vice ordinance. The libel suit was dismissed in August 1987…

    How does one go from vice representing attorney to appointed Judge. That is the 100,000 dollar question.

  4. By the way Governor Allain denied and provided evidence that he did not pay for cross dressing black underage boys to have sex with him. So the idea he needed large sums of under the table money would not true.

    “Persistent rumors of homosexuality. These rumors are, however, tainted by political motives: he was the target of a smear campaign by his Republican opponents. Allain’s attorney obtained in 1984 sworn statements by three male prostitutes who previously made allegations of homosexual activity with Allain, that their earlier allegations were invented. Allain did not run for reelection in 1987.”

  5. How could I not reply! I followed the link in your article and I see where your information came from. The one simple fact you should know is this. in late 1960’s my grandfather was stationed in Japan. My mother graduated high school in Japan. My point is my grandfather did not have a private practice until 1972. In 1985 he gave his active practice in private law to take the Govonors appointment for Judge. I do appreciate you getting back to me. I have been quite busy and I will be in touch. I deal with numbers all day. I do understand where your information came from and it is wrong. I hope to have that website correct thier story or remove it because while there are some facts I am sure in there somewhere??? There is enough that if someone would of taken the time to investigate they would realize how wrong what they said and hopefully do the right thing.

  6. Gerald Blessey was an honest, progressive Mayor who sought to shed Biloxi of the Dixie Mafia. He knew getting rid of the Mafia would help spur economic development and open up Biloxi to outside investors. What did he get for his efforts? Attacks by people who we now know were on the Dixie Mafia payroll. I don’t have any tolerance for those who get in bed with the Mafia at the expense of the rest of the community. These people are scum and need to know it.

    “So savage has the atmosphere become, Blessey said, that he is the subject of constant rumors of the most lurid sort, including suggestions–publicly rejected by the police–that he was linked to the unsolved, hit-style slayings of a Biloxi judge and his politically active wife in 1987.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/1988-12-21/news/mn-662_1_city-council

  7. I’m still seeking information on the death of my brother Ronald Wayne Anderson (Ronnie) who was murdered in 1967 in Gulfport, MS. I know he is still walking the streets. I have pictures of my father with several of Mafia members playing cards at his kitchen months before my brother was murdered.. Yes my father was tied to the corruption of the Harrison Co. Sheriff’s Dept. and was involved as far as having first hand knowledge to the Sherry’s murders, and it got him killed. I was told by Cold Case Unit in MS. they was 99.9 % sure my brother was murdered by member of Dixie Mafia.. When I identified the alleged perpetrator from a police line up and disclosed info. I had on Sherry’s murders I have been ignored ever since. Is there anyone who may have any information on this case… There was a girl named Cathy (last name unknown) who said she was present when Ronnie shot himself, Then there was a young man named Jeff Dennis Bass who stated he was with my brother when he shot himself… We know it was murder.. But due to my fathers involvement in all this I was stopped seeking information. Now my little brother and my father were murdered and I need answers..

    1. Please see https://gofundme.com/murdered-in-mississippi

      Seeking Justice For Ronnie & [email protected]

      Reward offered for any information on the unsolved murders of Ronald Wayne Anderson & Lt. Dan Anderson murdered in Gulf Port, MS

    1. Laura Corso, I see your post is recent and I would love to talk with you concerning Frank Corso’s death. I know my dad knew his as I have heard his name mentioned before. My father was Lt. Dan Anderson who worked for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. from the early 1967 until his murder in 2003. Yes he was friends with all the gamblers on the Gulf Coast and it cost him and my little brother their life. I have a face book page open to the public- Murdered in Mississippi and Seeking Justice For Ronnie & Daddy. Please e-mail m also [email protected]

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