Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

A Shocking Murder

Map with Biloxi, MS locator
Map with Biloxi, MS locator

Monday, September 14, 1987 began as an ordinary day in the lives of Vincent and Margaret Sherry of Biloxi, Miss. The locally prominent couple—he a judge, she a former city councilperson and candidate for mayor—went about their personal routines that day just like any other. Vincent showed up at the courthouse where he sat on the Circuit Court in the morning, then later did some jogging to keep in shape. A retired Air Force colonel, he also went to nearby Keesler Air Force Base to get his hair cut. Then he gassed up the couple's station wagon in preparation for a trip to Baton Rouge, La., where they planned to visit their youngest daughter on the campus of Louisiana State University, and have cataracts removed from the eyes of one of their beloved pet dachshunds.

Gerald Blessey
Gerald Blessey

Margaret spent part of the day shopping for clothes, buying two electronic calculators, and planning a meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy taking place the following month which she would be chairing. In the evening she spoke with several friends on the phone about ongoing scandals in city government and how she planned to expose them. She told one friend, City Councilmember Dianne Harenski, that she was working with the FBI and had enough evidence to put Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey on trial. She planned to expose her findings at the next day's City Council meeting at which the city's budget was to be adopted.

She never got that chance.

Margaret Sherry
Margaret Sherry

In the background, Harenski would later tell authorities, she could hear Vince clamoring for dinner. It was around 7 p.m. Margaret abruptly hung up to take care of her hungry husband; it would be the last anyone outside of her household would ever hear from her alive.

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.

Logo of the City of Biloxi
Logo of the City of Biloxi

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.

 

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