Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential


The verdicts in the trial were seen as a victory for the Sherry children and all who wanted to see justice done. It was also seen as a vindication of Margaret Sherry's crusade to rid Biloxi of vice and corruption. Her adversary, Mike Gillich, was taken off the streets and finally made to pay for three decades of flouting the law and sullying the reputation of her adopted city; not to mention for the lives lost of those who crossed the Dixie Mafia. Three men believed responsible for Vincent and Margaret Sherry's deaths would likely never again see freedom again. At least that was how it seemed at the time.

But, as Nix reminded the court just before his sentencing, the murders were still unsolved. No one had been identified as the triggerman. As long as that riddle remained unsolved, it would remain an open case as far as the Sherry children were concerned. Unfortunately, the case seemed likely to remain open barring any new information coming to light from a credible source. It seemed very likely that the case would never be solved, despite strong statements by U.S. Attorney George Phillips that the investigation would continue until the murderer was found.

A month after their sentencing for the lonelyhearts conspiracy, Nix, Gillich, and Lenny Swetman were found guilty of trafficking in marijuana in a separate trial. Five more years were added to Nix and Gillich's sentences, and Swetman received a five-year stretch, as well.

The next stage was the consideration of the defendants' appeals. The appeals went to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in 1993. Despite the impassioned pleas of defense lawyers, some challenging the constitutionality of the verdict and proceedings, the sentences were all upheld in their entirety. An appeal was then made to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices there declined to hear the case.

That same year, Pete Halat came up for reelection. By this time, Biloxi was starting to boom with legalized gambling, and the city was enjoying a commercial renaissance. Most of the tawdry strip joints and sleazy motels along "The Strip" were bulldozed to make way for the parking lots and structures comprised by the new string of glitzy, neon-and-strobe-lit casinos along the Gulf waterfront. Margaret Sherry would likely have opposed legalized gambling, and it did to the dismay of many Biloxians result in the increase in certain types of crime, as well as the broken lives of countless people who took serious financial hits at the craps and poker tables or the slot machines and roulette wheels. Still, casino gaming revitalized the economy of Biloxi, resulting in a surplus in the city's coffers for the first time in memory. Halat was quick to take credit for this bonanza.

It wasn't enough, though, to revive Halat's political fortunes; Halat lost his bid for reelection to Republican candidate A.J. Holloway by a mere 14 votes. The Sherry case wasn't much of an explicit issue in the campaign of either Holloway or in the media's coverage, but it was well understood by the city's electorate that their incumbent mayor governed under a cloud of suspicion. Perhaps, also, Halat was the victim of a national trend. Republicans all over the country, on all levels of government, were gaining ground, approaching levels of electoral success they had not seen since the Roaring Twenties. The next year, the Republican Party would take control both houses of the U.S. Congress for the first time in over 40 years.

In June 1993, for the first time since Reconstruction, Biloxi had a GOP mayor and a Republican majority on the city council. Margaret Sherry would undoubtedly have felt proud and vindicated. Had she lived, she might have even been the mayor who inaugurated this transformation.


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