Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential


Vince Sherry
Vince Sherry

Vincent and Margaret Sherry were Biloxi's version of The Odd Couple. While it would be stretching the truth to call them political opposites, they traveled in morally opposite universes. Margaret was the unrelenting, uncompromising foe of corruption and vice, thundering loudly in public and in private against them. Vince, however, thrived and prospered on the two. Many of his clients, some of whom had wealth and clout in the local business and political community, were either known or rumored members of the shadowy underworld loosely referred to as the "Dixie Mafia." Vince operated comfortably in the society of these individuals, along with his law partner, Peter "Pete" Halat.

Peter Halat
Peter Halat

More than anything, Vince appeared to be bemused by his wife's one-person crusade to rid Biloxi of crime and vice. He neither encouraged nor discouraged her from her dogged pursuit. Undoubtedly this caused arguments in the Sherry household but, as long as he stayed on the right side of the law, he felt he had nothing to fear from an FBI investigation. Despite some documented instances of violence in the early days of their marriage, they loved each other and stayed together throughout the turmoil.

Vincent Jerome Sherry, Jr. and Margaret Smith had been college sweethearts at Bowling Green State University in Kentucky in the late 1940s. Both had been reared in poverty, but were determined to make more of their lives than their parents had. Margaret earned a dual degree in mathematics and art and later went to work for an architect in Washington, D.C., Vince joined the Air Force, serving in intelligence at the Pentagon, while working on his law degree. They married in 1950.

Twenty years later, after a long sojourn around the globe during Vince's stint in the Air Force, they settled in Biloxi. Their marriage bore three natural children, Lynne, Vincent III, and Leslie, and a boy, Eric, adopted from Margaret's brother. They promptly made themselves at home on the Gulf Coast, and Vince began his legal practice. Almost immediately, his calendar filled up with clients who were known to move in the seedy circles centering on "The Strip." He found himself defending strippers, gamblers, and all other manner of shady characters inhabiting Biloxi's furtive underworld. He even brought some of these clients to his home for dinner, much to Margaret's chagrin, but she tolerated it on the surface, at least. Her husband was also moving comfortably in circles that included governors, U.S. Senators, judges, and leading Democratic Party officials, and the status and prestige of those associations was more to Margaret's liking.

Could the Sherrys' murder have had connection to Vince's ties to the Biloxi underworld? That, too, would be one of the mysteries investigators would have to sort out along the long, serpentine path to the resolution of the horrendous crime.


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