Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

The Trial: Part Two — Kellye's Testimony

Even though she was married to Nix, Kellye volunteered to testify against him anyway. Her testimony would prove to be some of the most damning to come from the witness stand. While the scam had been underway she had a serious drug problem but, by the time her turn came to testify, she was cleaning up her act and trying to go straight. During questioning by the prosecution, she corroborated Mitchell's account of approximately two hundred thousand dollars going missing. That same amount of money, Kellye said, was what Nix had told her could buy his freedom, with the help of Gillich and Halat.

Kellye also repeated, on the witness stand, a warning Halat had given her in 1983 to relay to Nix, "Tell him (Nix) to leave the homosexuals alone." Later that year, she added, Halat repeated the warning directly to Nix. However, the scam went on for about four years after that, so Kellye's testimony appeared to indicate that Halat had continued to participate in the scam even after he became aware of its fraudulent nature.

One final bit of damning information came out in Kellye's day-long testimony, gleaned from a jailhouse conversation she had overheard between Nix and his previous lawyer, Wayne Mancuso. The two men were discussing a hand-drawn map of the area of downtown Biloxi where the Halat & Sherry office was located. Nix, she said, pointed to a map and told his attorney, referring to John Ransom, "That man just happened to be there that day. It was just a coincidence." This admission appeared to put Ransom in Biloxi right around the time the Sherrys were murdered It corroborated the account of Chuck Leger whose description of the man who had asked the whereabouts of Judge Sherry matched that of Ransom.

Over the course of a month, more witnesses for the prosecution paraded to the stand to give their testimony. Including Leger, who, despite brutal cross examination by defense lawyers, stuck by the story he had told prosecutors earlier. Bob Hallal, the state's star witness instead of Bobby Joe Fabian, repeated much of what he'd told the grand jury earlier but with some notable inconsistencies that defense lawyers pounced on during cross examination. If, however, Hallal was the liar the defense made him out to be, he was a skilled one. Even Judge Pickering, during a bench conference with attorneys for both sides, admitted, "I find this witness to be very credible."

The government's final witness was another accomplice named William "Bill" Rhodes. He told the court he had been offered $30,000 by Halat and Ransom — and later by Gillich — to drive the getaway car in the Sherry hit. Even more damning to Halat, even though he hadn't been charged with anything yet, was a statement Halat allegedly made when Rhodes had suggested sparing Margaret's life: "No, she's got to die. We're under investigation, he's the weak link. She knows his business, she's got to go too."

Rhodes also recalled a November 1987 conversation he had with Ransom in which Ransom allegedly told him to keep his mouth shut. Rhodes held fast to his story and previous statements, even in the face of relentless attempts by the defense to shake and undermine his credibility. In the end, it seemed, the more the defense tried to rattle him, the better Rhodes held out under fire.

So ended the prosecution's case.

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