Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

The Sentences

On March 12, 1992, all of the principals in the trial, along with spectators and the media, gathered in Judge Pickering's court in Hattiesburg to hear the sentences. Gillich's family members and friends, present en masse, lobbied the judge for leniency for the Dixie Don, even to the extent of having the Catholic bishop of Biloxi ironically the same pastor who had officiated at the Sherrys' funeral write a letter citing Gillich's generous contributions to the church and church-related charitable causes. Hundreds of others, in an orchestrated effort, also wrote letters to the judge on Mr. Mike's behalf, including a senior executive of the Barq's beverage company, famous for its root beer, married to Gillich's daughter.

Members of the Sherry family, especially Lynne and Vin III, did their own lobbying, asking the judge not to show leniency for those involved with their parents' murder.

Before passing sentence, Pickering had to deal with some fuzzy legal issues. Barrett argued that the law allowed for a life sentence against Nix and Gillich. However, Pickering found that new federal sentencing guidelines only allowed him to impose five-year sentences on each count of the indictment. But, because he concluded that the Sherrys' murder had been a result of the conspiracy of which the defendants had been found guilty, he had the authority to impose the maximum sentences allowed. And so the stage was set for the actual sentencing.

The judge began with LaRa. For her minor role in the conspiracy she was sentenced to a year and a week in prison, to be followed by three years of probation and counseling.

Gillich received the maximum. Pickering, unmoved by the testimonials put before him seeking leniency for Gillich, sentenced him to three consecutive five-year terms for the three counts on which he had been found guilty, plus a $100,000 fine. At 61 years of age, Gillich would be in prison until his late 70s.

Nix, in a statement allowed before sentencing, reminded the court that the murder was still not solved and the identity of the murderer still unknown. In a speech worthy of a political science professor, using erudite words like "Machiavellian," he managed to impress Pickering, but failed to move him. "Mr. Nix, you are quite eloquent," the judge told him after he had finished. "It is unfortunate for you, and unfortunate for society, that a man with the talents and abilities you have would dedicate himself to crime."

"No one regrets it more than me," Nix replied.

With that, Pickering sentenced Nix to the same fifteen-year term Gillich received. Nix's sentence was largely academic because Nix was already serving a life sentence. However, should Nix ever be paroled or pardoned in Louisiana, he would still have to serve those 15 years in federal prison. It was likely Nix would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Ransom was unable to appear in court that day because he had contracted pneumonia. When his turn did come, Pickering gave him a ten-year sentence, which would be added to the 12 years to which had been sentenced in Georgia. At 65, this virtually ensured that he also would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

So the stage was set for appeals, of which there would be plenty.

 

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