Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

Robert Hallal's Story

Around the same time Leger was relating his story to investigators, another piece of the puzzle slipped into place. By this point, the investigation had added a new face to those looking for more clues to the double slaying, FBI Special Agent Keith Bell. His expertise and experience gave the investigation a much-needed boost and he would later play an even more pivotal role.

Keith Bell
Keith Bell

In October 1989 Bell received a call from an FBI agent in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The agent told Bell another potential witness had secretly come forward: a convicted armed robber and recovering heroin addict named Robert Hallal. He had served twelve years of a fifty-year sentence at Angola and was involved with Nix's lonely hearts scam. Upon his parole in May 1987, Hallal claimed he had been offered a job upon release: kill a judge in Biloxi.

Bell and the Baton Rouge agent met with Hallal in St. Francisville, La., twenty miles from Angola to preserve the secrecy of the meeting. Accompanied by guards from the prison, where he had been returned following a conviction and 95-year sentence for armed robbery, Hallal related his story to the two agents.

Hallal said he had been the voice of many characters on the prison phone during the scam, and he also helped line up "road dogs" (runners) to pick up and deliver scam money. Hallal's ex-wife, Patricia, also had had a role in this end of the operation. As a reward for her complicity, Hallal told the agents, Mike Gillich had given her money to set up an X-rated video store in Mobile, Ala., where she also worked as a prostitute.

After his release, Hallal dumped his wife, moved in with her landlady, and began working the scam again for Nix — this time from the outside. In July 1987, Nix called him and, according to Humes' account of the conversation, Nix said, "I'd like for you to knock someone off for me. You know who my man is on the Gulf Coast, right? Go see Mr. Mike if you're interested."

Continuing his account for the agents, Hallal said he delivered an $11,000 payment for Nix to Gillich and received the details of the planned hit. Sherry's name wasn't mentioned but Hallal had balked at the suggestion of killing someone as publicly prominent as a judge. Gillich had allegedly insisted, telling Hallal that the job wouldn't be a problem "because someone from Georgia will mail you a pistol with a silencer." Although the conversation had ended with Hallal's continued refusal to do the job, the two agents concluded he was talking about John Ransom, who was from Georgia. The revelation placed Gillich squarely in the thick of the conspiracy to kill the Sherrys.

Soon afterward, other witnesses were interviewed who largely corroborated Hallal's story; at least as far as his whereabouts during the time period he had related was concerned. These witnesses included the two women who accompanied Hallal to Biloxi with the $11,000: his girlfriend Alice Powers and Nix's estranged wife, Kellye Dawn Nix. Another witness and Nix accomplice, Bob Wright, was questioned, and his account had LaRa Sharpe delivering the possible murder weapon to Mike Gillich. Wright's story to the agents was brief but enough to implicate LaRa, not only in the scams, but also in a murder conspiracy.

The final witness mentioned by Hallal was questioned in the gaudily furnished cathouse she ran just outside Mobile: his ex-wife Patricia. Admitting complicity in Nix's scams and having acted as a runner with the money, she told Cook and Bell, "Bob Hallal is a lying sonofabitch, but he told you the truth on this one."

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