‘Court TV’ to chronicle Biloxi murders

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dominick Dunne, on his Court TV show, “Power, Privilege and Justice,” will feature Biloxi’s most notorious murder case, the hired killings of city public figures Vincent and Margaret Sherry.

The one-hour segment is called “Biloxi Confidential,” and will air 9 p.m. Wednesday.

A hitman gunned down Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and former Councilwoman Margaret Sherry in their Biloxi home 20 years ago.

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“These were prominent people,” said Dunne, who has covered the O.J. Simpson trial and other cases for Vanity Fair magazine. “I’m always interested in well-to-do people, and they were well-to-do.”

The lead investigator on the Sherry case, retired FBI Agent Keith Bell, is interviewed at length. Former U.S. Attorney George Phillips, whose office first prosecuted the case, is also featured.

“Biloxi Confidential” focuses on Pete Halat, who took office as Biloxi mayor in 1989, less than two years after the murders. As the show points out, Margaret Sherry had intended to run for the office.

The show traces the connections that led to the murder: a Louisiana inmate represented by Halat had been scamming homosexuals from behind prison bars, posing in classified ads as a young man looking for love. Halat held the inmate’s scam proceeds in a trust account. When money came up missing, Halat blamed Sherry, who had by then left their Biloxi law practice for his Circuit Court judgeship.

The murders were set up by Biloxi striptease lounge owner Mike Gillich Jr., a friend to Halat and Sherry, and a longtime acquaintance of the Louisiana inmate, Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. Gillich and Nix were convicted in the federal case in 1991. After two years in prison, Gillich decided to talk, implicating Halat, who was convicted after a second trial in 1997 for participating in the conspiracy.

“It was an interesting group of rotten people,” Dunne said.

Halat is not scheduled for release from prison until 2013. Dunne said that Halat declined to be interviewed for the show.