Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

Chuck Leger's Account

As more details in the Sherry murder investigation were publicly aired, more blanks were filled in. Several key pieces of information came from an unexpected source: someone who had had that information all along but hadn't realized the significance of it.

United States Court House
United States Court House

Charles "Chuck" Leger was the young attorney Halat had chosen to replace Vince in the firm when Vince had been elevated to the Circuit Court bench. A day or two before the Sherrys' murder, Leger told investigators in August 1989, a tall, lanky man with a limp in his right leg had come up to him in downtown Biloxi asking where he might find Vincent Sherry. Not seeing anything amiss in the request for information but being somewhat spooked by the man's appearance, Leger replied that Vince was probably at the courthouse, and watched as the man limped off. When the face of that particular man was shown on TV in connection with the Sherry murders, Leger recognized it. It was the face of John Ransom.

Ordinarily, a vague, two-year-old memory of a face — one among possibly hundreds or thousands Leger might have seen over that period of time — might have been suspect, except for one thing: the man's limp. Ransom had an artificial right leg to replace the real one that had been shot off years earlier. Leger couldn't have known that at the time or at the time Ransom's face was shown on TV. No one had reported it.

A second key detail provided by Leger centered on Halat's initial reaction to the discovery of the Sherrys' bodies and his choice of words at that time. When Vince and Margaret hadn't been seen for a few days, Halat drove out to the Sherrys' house accompanied by Leger. The two of them entered the house through the front door, which was unlocked. When Halat gave his first statement to investigators, he told them that immediately after seeing Vince lying dead on the floor he retreated out of the house without looking further. "I had no idea that Mrs. Sherry was in the house," he told crime scene investigators at the time.

However, according to Leger, while they were in the house, Halat ushered him outside quickly, saying, "Vince and Margaret are dead." How could he have known that if he hadn't gone into the bedroom and seen Margaret's body?

Still another key detail Leger provided to investigators concerned LaRa Sharpe. When questioned right after Fabian implicated her in the scams, LaRa told her interrogators that she left the Halat & Sherry office in 1986. However, Leger didn't start working there until May 1987 and he recalled seeing her there frequently, almost constantly talking on the phone. This went on for a year after he started working there, putting LaRa version of the story clearly at odds with his.

Leger also said that, shortly after taking the oath of office as mayor, Halat had sent his secretary over to his old law office to retrieve all of the files related to Kirksey Nix. The secretary, who had previously worked with Halat in the law office, had known exactly where the files were and she hauled every one of them off. Leger claimed he never saw the files on Nix, nor was he ever made privy to any of Halat's dealings with him.

Investigators saw no reason to question Leger's credibility and, indeed, he was the first witness to come forward with no axe to grind or clemency deal in mind. Unlike Fabian, who was a convicted felon, or LaRa, whose reputation was also less than savory, Leger was an upstanding professional in the field of law. He had no reason to implicate his former boss, Halat, in any wrongdoing. Halat had groomed him to manage the firm upon taking the oath of office, and had even elevated Leger to a city court judgeship. He had no reason to lie and his statements to investigators, as well as later testimony in court, carried substantial weight.