The Murder of Howard Appledorf
The forged check
The cruelty with which Howard had been murdered pointed to a prior relationship with his murderers. Ward described Howard as suffering "a very slow, very painful" death by asphyxiation. The crime scene as a whole suggested a cultic ritual, revenge, burglary or a possible combination of the three as motives.
In the days before his death, Howard had been embroiled in a legal tangle with three young men. One was misidentified in early news reports as "Gary McNichol," an alias he frequently used. He was really Gary Bown, 21, and the other two were Paul Everson, 19, and Shane Kennedy, 15. Shane's name was not made public in early accounts because he was a juvenile. Bown and Everson had arrest records as male prostitutes and Lerner, Prout and Wares noted that the three were known to hustle "as a trio."
According to an article by Cheryl McCall in People, "Investigators learned that Appledorf first met Gary Bown in San Francisco while attending a National Soft Drink Association convention in June of 1982. After encountering Bown on Polk Street, the professor took him to his room at the Hilton, split a $75 bottle of champagne with him, and reportedly contracted for sexual services for two nights for $200. Later, he bought clothes for Bown and gave him another $200 before returning to Florida. Appledorf then wired Bown $100 in New York on Aug. 14 and sent $25 to Orlando a week later - the day Bown, Everson and Kennedy first arrived at his condo."
The three spent two nights with Howard. An article in Nutrition Today related that one of the men stole a personal check from Howard's desk and made out the check to himself in the amount of $900, forging Howard's signature to it. He took it to a bank Howard used and presented it to a teller. Nutrition Today wrote, "When the teller, who knew Appledorf, questioned the stranger about the validity of the signature," he showed her a phone number and suggested that she confirm that the nutritionist had signed it by calling that number and asking him. The article continued, "The facile gesture heightened the teller's suspicions." She pretended to be taken in and excused herself but called the police instead of the proffered number. According to Nutrition Today, the police "quickly traced the number to a public phone in the lobby of the nearby Hilton. There they found waiting for the phone to ring the other two of the trio, one of whom impersonated Appledorf when the teller called and was promptly nabbed by the police." Playing along with the charade, the teller nonetheless cashed the check, but officers apprehended the man holding the money as he exited the bank. A deposition given by Gainesville Police Officer Raymond M. Davis, Jr., who had interviewed Paul Everson, identified the man who brought the forged check to the bank as Everson.