Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Million Dollar Murder

Introduction

A ringing phone roused Dr. John Handwerker at 4:45 a.m. on June 29, 1964.
Florida map with Key Biscayne
Florida map with Key Biscayne
An answering service informed the physician of a medical emergency at the home of a millionaire neighbor in the diamond-dusted island enclave of Key Biscayne, Fla. Handwerker pulled on trousers and rushed to the home of Jacques Mossler, 69. The doctor might well have stayed in bed.
Jacques Mossler under blanket
Jacques Mossler under blanket
He found Mossler, the shrewd ruler of a $33 million financial empire, lying splayed on the living room floor, surrounded by an aura of crimson blood. Dr. Handwerker found no pulse, no heartbeat. There was nothing he could do because Mosslers murderer had done his work so thoroughly. The victims chest had been all but shredded by knifework.
Later that day, Dr. Joseph Davis, the Dade County medical examiner, catalogued Mosslers fatal injuries. He had been clubbed on the head at least twice, probably with an oversized soda bottle and a sculptured glass swan found in the apartment. He had then been stabbed. The murderer appeared to have been intent on a sure-thing kill with a direct pricking of the heart.
Dr. Davis in the 1960s
Dr. Davis in the 1960s
Dr. Davis counted 17 entry wounds on the left side of Mosslers chest. Two more thrusts penetrated his breastbone at the center of the chest, and six others were found on the left side of the body near his heart. In all, the pathologist found 39 knife wounds, and more than a few found their target of the millionaires heart.
Coroner's office, mid 1960s
Coroner’s office, mid 1960s
The autopsy also numerous defense-style cuts on Mosslers hands and arms. He had died fighting. The question was: with whom?

Sanctioned Loansharking

Jacques Mossler had lived the American dream. The son of Romanian immigrants, he grew up in New York and Chicago, quitting school at age 13 to help support his mother when his father died young. The enterprising Mossler worked as a newsboy, hawking papers in the Chicago Loop, and he dabbled in a lucrative sideline, lending money to kids who found themselves in a temporary financial fix.
Jacques Mossler, victim
Jacques Mossler, victim
Mossler went around with pockets bulging with jangling coins – the sweet sound of the young loansharks vigorish. As he reached adulthood, Mossler graduated from newsboy to auto mechanic, but that job was a stepping stone. His initiative earned him an opportunity to sell cars at a Chicago dealership, and he soon naturally shifted to the financing department. Mossler learned what Henry Ford knew: Automobiles presented unprecedented financial opportunities.
In 1895, the year Mossler was born, four autos were registered in America. There were 8,000 five years later, 469,000 by 1910 and 9.2 million in 1920.
During the 1920s, Ford, Chevrolet and other manufacturers cranked out cars for a population crazy with automobiles. Every family had to have one, whether they could afford it or not. Mossler was positioned to cash in on a companion craze: consumer credit.
He saw installment loans as a legalized form of his old street-corner loansharking. Interest was the vigorish in a starched collar. After the Great Depression, Mossler founded a string of small financing companies that tapped the expanding installment loan market. This led him into the related banking and insurance businesses.
By the end of World War II, Mossler had assembled more than 40 bank, finance and insurance firms that were waiting when returning soldiers needed credit to buy houses, cars and refrigerators. His firms, clustered around Chicago, Houston, South Florida and New Orleans, included the Mutual National Bank of Chicago, Central Bank and Trust of Miami and three dozen finance and insurance subsidiaries of two holding companies, Service Trust and Mossler Acceptance Corp.
His lending firms used a credit-friendly slogan that echoes in television commercials today: The Yes Banks.

Repo Man

Mossler apartment, outside
Mossler apartment, outside
When Mossler turned up dead, police looked into his business relationships and found any number of enemies. He was a corporate repo man. His firms had repossessed thousands of automobiles and appliances over the years and foreclosed on untold numbers of mortgages when lenders were late with payments. He was an uncompromising businessman - scrupulous, but perhaps heartless.
As Percy Foreman, a prominent attorney, would say, I believe… that Jacques Mossler was as ruthless in business as any pirate that ever sailed the seas of commerce.
Of course, investigators also looked into the victims personal relationships for clues and individuals with motives to commit murder. And that is where the probe got complicated. Mossler had led two personal lives. He married in the 1920s, and that relationship produced four daughters. The couple was divorced in 1947.
And then along came Candy.
Candace Mossler
Candace Mossler
Born in 1919, Candace Weatherby was a pixie-like farmers daughter from Georgia. She married young to an older man, gave birth to two children, then divorced her husband and moved to New York, where she took up modeling. Candy had a pleasant face and perfect teeth, which led to steady work as a toothpaste model.
But New York was no place for a divorcee to raise two kids, so she moved to New Orleans, where - still in her 20s - she opened the Candace Finishing School, Modeling School and Model Agency. Candys businesses gave her access to that citys cultured crowd, and she began working as a volunteer fundraiser for the New Orleans Grand Opera Company. Her duty was to call on the citys millionaire businessmen to seek donations.
One of the names that turned up on her solicitation list was Jacques Mossler, who owned a New Orleans bank. In the fall of 1948, Candy paid him a visit.

Candy Strikes Gold

Mossler proved to be a tough sell. Candy had him penciled in as a $350 opera donor. He sprung for just $25. But, he apparently was sold on Candy.
Mossler, then 52, was not an unattractive man, with a shock of wavy hair, heavy arched eyebrows and well-proportioned facial features. But Candy, 28, was in another league. Some years later, Paul Holmes described her in the Chicago Tribune: She was piquant, vivacious, friendly, and with a flashing smile that lighted up her mobile features. Her hair was blonde, more white than yellow… Her clothing was expensive but worn both casually and tastefully. She was not a petite woman but she was on the smallish side and slender as a girl. She was a woman who could be equally at home in a drawing room, a cocktail lounge or a board room.
On May 24, 1949, six months after they met, Mossler and Candy were married. They set up house in a 28-room mansion in the exclusive River Oaks section of Houston, where Mosslers business had its headquarters. The newlyweds needed the space, with six children between them, along with a small squadron of live-in cooks, maids, gardeners and chauffeurs.
Jacques Mossler lavished jewels and designer clothing on his new wife. The couple kept a fleet of the latest models of luxury automobiles - Jaguars, Cadillacs, Thunderbirds. They maintained a busy social schedule, both in Houston and Miami, where they bought an apartment on Key Biscayne.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Candy “became known as a charming hostess, entertaining visiting opera stars and other celebrities, and taking active part in civic, cultural and charitable causes.” The couple donated to the Texas Childrens Hospital, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Boys Club and the citys United Fund.
Mossler gave his wife a monthly allowance of $5,700 to manage the house, and he would add bonuses of $5,000 for her birthday, their wedding anniversary and other special occasions.
Mossler, a pragmatic businessman, had had a vasectomy after the birth of his fourth daughter. He apparently enjoyed an occasional fling, but was paranoid about being blackmailed over an unwanted pregnancy by a gold digger. The vasectomy became a contentious issue with the couple because Candy wanted more children.
During a business trip to Chicago in 1957, Mossler read a newspaper story about a horrible murder. A mother of five young children was shot and killed by her war veteran husband during a bout of psychosis. The man, who was institutionalized, also killed the youngest of the children.
Mossler children
Mossler children
Mossler pulled strings in Illinois government and adopted the four surviving kids, a girl of 6 and three boys, 5, 3 and 2. They joined the crowd at the Houston mansion.

A Nephew Moves In

Candy Mossler had a soft spot for hard cases.
She once sat on a county grand jury that indicted a man named Howard Stickney for a double murder. After he was tried, convicted and sentenced to die, Candy founded a defense fund on his behalf, convincing her wealthy opera guild friends that capital punishment was immoral.
In 1956, her brother DeWitt Weatherby was sent away to prison for life in Georgia for killing a man during a poker game. Candy and Jacques Mossler spent untold sums of money -above board and below – to buy political influence on her brothers behalf. He was paroled in less than five years.
Melvin Powers
Melvin Powers
In 1961, Candy Mossler took another hard case. His name was Melvin Lane Powers, son of her older sister, Elizabeth Weatherby Powers. Mel was a striking physical specimen. He stood about 6-foot-4 and had the build of a linebacker. He sported coal-colored hair and had the facial features of a movie star – pouting lips, bedroom eyes, high cheekbones and a solid jaw. He had one blemish: disfiguring acne.
Powers was just 20 years old in 1961, but he could have passed for 35. He dressed in jacket and tie and had the easy repartee of a salesman. Powers had sold magazine subscriptions door to door in the southeast after high school, then moved to Pontiac, Mich., where he fell in with a group of men involved in a swindle racket. He was jailed for 90 days and was still on probation when he showed up at Aunt Candys. He arrived in Houston late in 1961, apparently at his mothers urging. She hoped Candys wealth would help set him straight.
Candy urged her husband to hire Mel at one of his Houston financial firms, the Allen Parker Co. She then asked whether Mel could move into the mansion, to tide him over until he got on his feet financially. Jacques Mossler reckoned that there was room for one more kin. Mel moved in.

A Kinky Kind of Love

Jacques Mossler fell ill from a respiratory infection that lingered for much of 1962. He traveled alone to Europe for treatment at mineral springs and began spending more time on Key Biscayne, breathing the healthier ocean air.
At the same time, Candy began to develop a very close relationship with her nephew. Before long, they crossed a moral - and legal - taboo. Mel and his Aunt Candy became lovers.
Candy, twice Mels age, would visit his bedroom at night, after the children and servants were asleep. They exchanged torrid love letters and stole away for trysts.
During their trips together, Powers often would introduce Candy as his wife, although he sometimes acknowledged her as a distant relation seeking succor from a bad marriage.
Powers also bragged to acquaintances that Candy had fallen under his sexual trance because he had a knack for pleasuring her through oral sex. He performed in bed, Powers said, and Candy treated him to anything he wanted, thanks to her wealthy husband, whom he referred to – ironically enough – as the old mooch.
Candy and Mels relationship eventually became an open secret around the Houston mansion. In the late spring of 1963, about 14 months after Mel moved in, Jacques Mossler learned of his wifes incestuous affair, apparently after he was tipped off by a servant, then read her diary.
Mossler paid a secret visit to the Harris County district attorney to see about bringing criminal charges against Powers for breaking up his home. The authorities apparently dissuaded him, warning of the potential for scandalous publicity.
On June 20, Mossler told an executive to fire Powers from his job at the financial firm. That same day, a pair of investigators from the prosecutor’ s office visited Powers. They ordered him to vacate the mansion or face arrest. Powers did not go quietly. He railed against Jacques Mossler and vowed to return one day as master of the mansion.
A disgusted Mossler retreated alone to Europe. He eventually returned to the United States, but was too embarrassed to live in Houston, where rumors of the incest tittered through high society. Mossler opted for life in Key Biscayne, in a modest two-bedroom unit at the luxurious Governors Lodge apartment complex.
His relationship with his wife certainly was strained. But neither Mossler nor Candy made legal moves to separate or divorce. Each had financial motivation not to.
Candy would receive only $200,000 if she sued for divorce under terms of a contract she had signed with Mossler before marriage. And Mossler knew she could get half of his fortune if he sought the divorce. So they suffered one another from afar for a year after the affair was revealed – Jacques in Florida, Candy in Houston.
Mel Powers had gone into business selling mobile homes in Texas, with financial backing from Candy. He took an apartment in Houston, which served as a love nest when Aunt Candy came calling.

Midnight Migraines

After school let out in late May 1964, Candy traveled to Key Biscayne with her own daughter, Rita, and three of the four adopted children. No one knows the nature of the Mosslers relationship in Key Biscayne, whether contemptuous, cordial or conjugal.
But soon after Candy arrived in Florida she apparently began experiencing debilitating migraine headaches.
Three times she sought emergency treatment at Miami s Jackson Memorial Hospital, on June 24, 26 and 29. Each time she drove herself to the hospital between 1 a.m. and dawn, taking the children with her and leaving Jacques Mossler home alone with his boxer dog. The June 29 trip was particularly odd.
DuPont Plaza Hotel
DuPont Plaza Hotel
She loaded the children in her red convertible at 1 a.m., saying she had to mail some letters. She drove to the DuPont Plaza Hotel, where she bought stamps and posted several letters. She then went to the hospital for a migraine treatment.
In her two hours there, Candy received three phone calls from the same man at the nurses station near the emergency room. The caller was not Jacques Mossler, a nurse would later say.
Back on Key Biscayne, Mosslers dog woke neighbors with ferocious barking at 1:30 a.m. This was followed by a series of thuds, muffled groans and a strange mans voice. The noises were so troubling that three neighbors went to Mosslers door to check on him. Their knock went unanswered, and they gave up and went home. Candy and the children returned at 4:30 a.m., and found Mosslers body in the living room. Candys teenage daughter, Rita, called police.

A Crime of Passion?

The authorities considered various motives, including sour business relationships and revenge by someone who had suffered the repo mans hook. Mosslers wallet was emptied of about $500 during the deadly assault, so robbery was considered, as well.
But detectives kept coming back to the 39 stab wounds. Mossler was not merely slain. He was murdered with a vengeance. Often, such passionate overkill indicates an emotional or sexual connection between the attacker and victim. Naturally, suspicion fell on his wife and her lover.
Mossler left a record of the affair in his own diary, and he clearly understood the stakes. He wrote of Candy and Mel, ‘ ‘ If they don’ t kill me first, I’ ll have to kill them.’ ‘
Tangible and circumstantial evidence implicated the lovers. Airline records and eyewitnesses said Powers had traveled from Houston to Miami before the murder, then back again in the hours after Mossler was killed. A palm print from Powers turned up in the Key Biscayne apartment.
A white Chevrolet spotted at the murder scene was identified as a rental that Candy had provided Powers during his visit to Miami. The car was located at the Miami airport, where it had been parked at 5:19 a.m. on June 29, a few hours after the murder and not long before Powers boarded a flight back home to Houston. Sixteen fingerprints from Powers turned up in the car, as did flecks of blood.
On July 3, the day of Jacques Mosslers funeral, Florida authorities issued a warrant charging Mel Powers with his murder. Texas Rangers picked him up that afternoon at his trailer business outside Houston. Police confiscated his clothing and found traces of blood on trousers he was wearing when he returned from Miami.
Percy Foreman, defense attorney
Percy Foreman, defense attorney
Candy Mossler and her sister, Elizabeth Powers, retained Percy Foreman, the famed Texas hired gun defense attorney, to defend Mel. Foreman demanded a $200,000 retainer, and Candy put up her jewelry box as collateral.
The gems included an emerald-cut blue and white diamond ring valued at $20,000, a canary tear drop diamond pendant worth $12,500, and various other gold and diamond frippery - all gifts from Jacques Mossler to his wife.
Mossler would have choked at the idea: He had paid for the defense of his accused murderer.

Candy’s Turn

Candy Mossler decided to get out of town. She arranged to take treatment for her migraines and other undisclosed medical conditions at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Mayo Clinic Complex
Mayo Clinic Complex
She rented two adjoining apartments there, and her children joined her. Meanwhile, investigators in Texas and Florida continued working for months to string together evidence. Each thread seemed to lead to Mel Powers, Candy Mossler, or both.
Cops turned up four witnesses who claimed the lovers solicited a hit on the old mooch. The investigators lined up a long list of witnesses - neighbors, employees, hotel clerks - who said they saw Mel and Candy share affectionate moments. Cops found a photographic record of Candy and Mels travels - souvenir snapshots from nightclubs, ski slopes, concerts.
America s newspapers and magazines took note of the salacious case, and a drumbeat began to build for indictment of Candace Mossler. It finally came on July 20, 1965.
She was still living in Rochester but agreed to fly to Miami to surrender, rather than risk the indignity of a surprise arrest. Accompanied by a private nurse and wearing a Mayo Clinic wrist identification band, she flew from Minnesota to Miami International Airport, where she was treated to a genteel arrest by a state police commander. A mighty press contingent had gathered at the airport, and Candy gave them plenty of her toothpaste-model smiles.
Candace Mossler, escorted
Candace Mossler, escorted
I cant believe this is happening to me, she said through gleaming incisors. Turning to the lawmen, she added, What you should be doing is finding the man who really did this murder. That is what the Dade County taxpayers are paying you for.
She added, This is Russia. They would convict Jesus Christ.
Time magazine published a droll item about the case that called Mossler lissome and lippy. The story noted that both Mel and Candy had been released on $50,000 bonds. The writer concluded, While Mel discreetly headed for Atlanta, Candace emerged from jail as other inmates showered her with hearty obscenities. Smiling and blowing kisses, the irrepressible widow jounced off to Houston. It promises to be some trial.
And so it was.

Circus Trial, Circa ’66

The celebrity trials of today have nothing on the circus that began in a Miami courtroom on January 17, 1966. Mel Powers and Candy Mossler were tried together for murder, and execution was a sentencing option for Judge George Schulz in the event of a conviction. The subject matter was expected to be so offensive that Schulz closed the courtroom to anyone under 21.
Most of the countrys biggest newspapers and magazines sent their best correspondents to record all the salacious details – among them, Theo Wilson for the New York Daily News, Paul Holmes for the Chicago Tribune and Lewis H. Lapham for the Saturday Evening Post.
Holmes wrote that the trial was lubricated by sex, nourished by sex, varnished by sex. Like many members of the press, he clearly was smitten by Candy.
He wrote, She is remarkable for her poise, her wealth, her tenacious hold on the vestiges of a varnished youth, and the bouncy, unquenchable optimism with which she cheerfully faces an ordeal that will surely tarnish her and could end in a one-way walk to Florida s death chamber. She is remarkable for an outgoing disposition which makes it appear she seeks friends for friendship only and neither needs nor wants sympathy. She is remarkable for her gaiety, her ceaseless effervescence, and for an underlying, alert intelligence that is her ultimate armor.
Candace Mossler interviewed
Candace Mossler interviewed
On dull days, Candy Mossler gave exclusive interviews to this reporter or that, including Holmes. During the six-week trial, Candy treated dozens of reporters to favor-currying exclusives. Richard Gerstein, the top states attorney for the Miami area, opted to lead the prosecution team. Arthur Huttoe and Gerald Kogan assisted. Each defendant also had three-lawyer teams, leaving little elbowroom inside the courtroom rail.
The big dog was Powers lead lawyer, Percy Foreman, a physically imposing Texan with personality and bluster as outsized as his home state. By Foremans count, he had defended 1,000 accused murderers. Eight in 10 had been acquitted – again, by Foremans count.
He was a master of diversion and flyspecking in the courtroom. In one trial after another, he strove to deflect focus from his client by casting aspersions on some other player - the accuser, the lover, the police or even society.
He ate juries alive by planting and cultivating seeds of reasonable doubt - in the style of Johnnie Cochranes mantra at the O.J. Simpson murder trial, If the glove doesnt fit, you must acquit.
Harvey St. Jean and Henry Carr, both veteran criminal defense attorneys, joined Foreman at Powers table. Clyde Woody, a Houston lawyer, was Candys lead counsel, and he was assisted by the venerable Walter Gwinn and Marian Rosen, a young lawyer who was one of the few women in the courtroom.
In that era, just one in 20 people called for jury duty in Florida was a woman, due to a state law that has since been amended. Attorneys questioned 77 prospective jurors before the first female candidate appeared.
Defense attorneys marshaled their preemptory challenges to impanel an all-male jury, apparently believing that men were more likely to appreciate Candys charms.
The 12 men ranged in age from 25 to 63. There were nine whites and three blacks. Seven were Protestants, two Catholics and two Jews. One man, a 47-year-old hairdresser who would be elected foreman, professed no faith. Most came from blue collar professions - bus driver, construction worker, aircraft mechanic, letter carrier, lumberman and truck driver.

Disparaging the Victim

Speaking for the prosecution team in opening remarks, Arthur Huttoe set up the case in black and white: The motive for this murder was a personal hatred of the deceased by Melvin Lane Powers and a sordid, illicit love affair between the deceaseds wife, Candace Mossler, and her sisters son, Melvin Lane Powers.
Jurors shifted nervously.
Huttoe said that when Jacques Mossler sacked Powers and booted him from the mansion, the young man told him, Ill be back and you will regret this the longest day of your life.
Other defense attorneys used opening statements to zero in on flaws in evidence, even before it was presented. Yes, Powers palm print was found in Mosslers Key Biscayne apartment, they noted, but so were 26 finger- and palm prints that had not been identified. And the source of a dyed black hair found in the right palm of the victim also had not been accounted for.
When his colleagues had finished, Percy Foreman slowly unfurled his angular body from behind the defense table. True to form, he lit into the victim. Foreman understood that Mel and Candy would be judged harshly by the jury. He tried to trump any shock the jurors felt about incest by introducing another titillating sexual detail: Jacques Mossler was a homosexual, Foreman declared, and this forced his poor wife to seek companionship elsewhere.
This provided Foreman with a strawman suspect - a forsaken homosexual lover, perhaps with dyed black hair, who was so emotionally overwrought he stabbed Mossler 39 times.
Foreman said dozens of people had real or imaginary justification to murder the buccaneer businessman. But he saved most of his bluster for the homosexual angle. He promised to call witnesses who would lay bare the secret erotic lifestyle of the millionaire.
Prosecutors spent three weeks presenting their case against Mel and Candy. Evidence against Powers was formidable - fingerprints, the rented automobile, blood.
Judge Schulz hobbled prosecutors by refusing to allow as evidence a nine-page letter that Powers wrote to Candy from prison. Candys diary also was ruled inadmissible. But a number of witnesses testified to the couples sexual relationship, including two men who recounted Powers bragging about his sexual grip on Candy.
Gerstein and his colleagues Huttoe and Kogan made a feasible murder case against Powers, although the evidence against Candy was purely circumstantial. Then they went too far.

‘Humanity at Its Worst’

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Prosecutors probably blundered by bringing to the witness stand four men who claimed the lovers had solicited them to kill Jacques Mossler. Two were escorted to court directly from prison, and the others were ex-cons who had worked with Powers. They said they were offered up to $10,000 to kill Mossler.
As the Tribunes Holmes put it, The criminals the state dug up… were as fantastic an array of underworld characters as were ever assembled for display at a major trial. Some of them represented hitherto unplumbed depths of the dregs of society. Not only could they not be believed when they spoke, they were themselves unbelievable. They were grotesque caricatures of humanity at its worst.
Actually, three of the men were fairly credible, including the two ex-colleagues of the defendant, who gave detailed accounts of their conversations with Powers. But the fourth man, Billy Frank Mulvey, was such an obvious liar that he led jurors to discount the testimony of all four - and perhaps to doubt the prosecutions entire case.
Mulvey, 35, a lifelong Texas thief and drug dealer, claimed that Candy Mossler paid him $7,000 to kill her husband. He said he took the money and spent it but did not carry out the contract. His story drew one of the few reactions from Candy during the trial. She blurted out, I never seen or heard of this man, drawing an admonishment from Judge Schulz.
Mulvey then went on to say that he briefly shared a cell with Mel Powers in the Harris County Jail in Houston after his arrest for the murder in July 1964. Mulvey claimed Powers confessed to him.
The coincidence that Mulvey would be involved in both the hit solicitation and the Powers confession apparently did not seem incredible to the prosecutors. The same could not be said of the 12 men in the jury box.

Brief Defense, Long Summary

Candy Mosslers attorneys called only a few witnesses, primarily to rebut the controversial hit man testimony. Candy did not testify. Percy Foreman, Mel Powers lead attorney, did not follow through on his promise to present the sordid details of Jacques Mosslers homosexual lifestyle.
He called no witnesses - an indication that he believed prosecutors had failed to make a convincing case. Each of the nine attorneys then took a turn at a closing statement, subjecting jurors to three full days of spin and summations.
Prosecutor Huttoe leveled a finger at Candy Mossler and said she was most guilty of all. His colleague Gerstein bristled at the unproven allegation that Jacques Mossler was gay. Who will stand up and speak for the murdered man? he demanded.
Defense attorney Harvey St. Jean said prosecutors may have proven that Mel and Candy were affectionate. But he added, We are not trying a hugging and kissing case. We are trying a murder case.
Clyde Woody, speaking for Candy, said, She was not put on trial here because of evidence against her. This was done because she is a very wealthy woman. This is the only reason she is in this case.
Other lawyers reviewed the evidence - overwhelming or fatally flawed, depending on their position at the counsel table.
Finally, after more than two days, it was Percy Foremans turn. Prosecutors normally get the last word in a trial, but Foreman was allowed the final oration under Florida law because he had called no witnesses.
Foreman began, I will now make a few brief remarks. And he proceeded to speak for four hours and 58 minutes.
He lavished praise on the judge, his colleagues and the jurors. He quoted scripture and repeatedly cautioned the jurors against judging Candy and Mel, even though that was precisely their duty. He dedicated more than an hour to a dissection of the character and testimony of Billy Frank Mulvey.
The one thing he didnt talk about was Jacques Mosslers alleged homosexuality. In fact, he rebuked prosecutor Gerstein for raising the tawdry issue during his own summation. Foreman worked up a gullet full of umbrage as he fairly spit out, I wont waste a single word on it.
Foremans gall at turning the subject he had raised against Gerstein drew chuckles from the gallery.

Inside the Jury Room

The jury began deliberations on Thursday evening, March 3. They took a quick vote and learned they were split roughly in thirds: three favored conviction, four were undecided and five favored acquittal.
After a night at a Miami hotel, the jury on Friday morning asked Judge Schulz to rehear testimony about fingerprints and from neighbors of Jacques Mossler. A new vote taken on Friday afternoon found that all four of the undecideds now favored acquittal. The jurors slept on it that night, and a third vote Saturday morning showed the same result: 9-3 for acquittal.
The jury foreman, Fred Harris, sent a note to Judge Schulz announcing a deadlock due to a wide breach in opinions. Schulz ordered more deliberations, and the jury complied.
They returned to the hotel early that evening then resumed discussion at 9:05 a.m. Sunday. Ninety minutes later, after 16 hours and 33 minutes of deliberation, the foreman announced a verdict was in hand.
Prosecutors, the defense teams and the press corps assembled for the reading of the verdict. Powers strode in at 11:58 a.m. and sat stoically, his favored pose throughout the trial. Candy Mossler, who had claimed to suffer failing health as the trial wore on, was assisted to her seat six minutes later.
At 12:10 p.m., the bailiff passed two slips of paper to Judge Schulz. He read each without reaction, then passed them to court clerk Robert Dorr, who opened the first, regarding Mel Powers, and said, Not guilty. He opened the second, regarding Candy, and announced the same verdict.
Candace Mossler waves, after court
Candace Mossler waves, after court
Judge Schulz summoned Mel and Candy to stand before him. He declared them free and ordered their $50,000 bonds released. Schulz dismissed the jury without offering the customary gratitude. As the jurors filed out, Candy rushed over and kissed them, one by one.
Prosecutor Gerstein told reporters, This is the American system of justice, and I cannot complain against it.

Life Goes On

Outside the courtroom, Mel and Candy embraced and kissed. A reporter asked whether they planned to marry.
Of course not, Candy said.
Aunt Candy & Nephew Mel
Aunt Candy & Nephew Mel
It was the truth. Their affair ended not long after the trial. Mossler told intimates that her nephew was too emotionally immature and prone toward jealous rage. Mels version was that he was simply ready to move on to someone nearer his age. Candy had Jacques money to console her.
Mossler left $1 million trust funds for each of the children – his own, Candys, and their adopted orphans. But Candy got most of the $33 million estate, and she parlayed his business investments into a far greater fortune over the next 10 years.
Five years after the trial, she married Barnett Garrison, a Houston electrician. He was 33 and she 52. They lived together briefly in the old Mossler mansion in Houston.
Thirteen months after the marriage, Garrison was crippled in a fall from the room of the house. The couple had been fighting that night and Garrison went out drinking alone. He returned late without keys and apparently tried to climb up to Candys third-floor bedroom. Candy divorced him.
For his part, Mel Powers went into a career as a real estate developer. In the early 1980s he built the Arena Tower and Arena Theater in suburban Houston, a pair of 19-story buildings. He lived in a penthouse atop one of them, until the buildings went into foreclosure.
His financial life has had boom-and-bust cycles. One year he bought a 165-foot yacht; the next he filed for bankruptcy. He was alive and well in his mid-60s at last word. No so Candy Mossler.
In late October 1976, she was staying in a penthouse suite at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami while in town for a bank board meeting. She called for a doctor for a migraine treatment just after midnight.
Deeply sedated, she died in her sleep. The body was found the next morning. Her corpse was flown back toTexas, where she was buried. Candy Mossler died with a net worth estimated at well over $100 million. But her murdered husband, Jacques Mossler, won a more prestigious eternal rest. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

9 comments:

  1. Tonight is the 50th anniversary of the murder of Jacques Mossler - - he is missed. And to correct the last paragraph of this article, Candace Mossler is buried not in Texas, but together with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery. I know as I was there. AD June 29, 2014

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to talk to you. I'm Skip Hollandsworth, a writer for Texas Monthly magazine.
      shollandsworth@texasmonthly.com

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. I doubt she was murdered, but it sounds like a Michael Jackson type deal where maybe she was given too much of a drug.

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  3. A cunning manipulator, she will have a diagnosis according to modern criteria

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  4. We lived about two blocks from the apartment building Mrs. Mossler lived in and she was on our paper route. I don't remember there being kids with her. We knew the neighborhood kids for blocks around, but no one knew her kids. There is a church in that area that had a big empty lot next to it. All the kids played there, baseball, sledding, kite flying, whatever. Her kids likely would have played there too, which is why it puzzles me that if they were there for a year, that we didn't know them. They would have been close to us in age. If they were in school, they would have gone to Sunset Terrace Elementary. Of course there were whispers around the neighborhood about her regarding the murder, and rumors that she liked to party, but we were little kids so not much was said in front of us. She was a good paper customer, always paid when we came to collect, which was a big deal because lots of people duck the paper kid on collection day. Plus she gave tips. She used to wear a neck brace and for some reason I thought she had been in a car accident and that's why she was at Mayo. I guess she could have been in an accident while in Rochester. But what I remember best was there used to be a popular band in Rochester called the Mustangs. Mrs. Mossler had some kind of party (birthday I think) and hired the Mustangs to play. They were set up in the front yard of the building and every kid in the neighborhood for blocks around were standing on the sidewalk gawking. We'd never seen such a thing. I never would have thought she was in her 50s then, and you know how kids are with "old" people. She didn't look it. Until I started reading about her recently, I didn't know how old she was then and if someone asked me now I would have said in her middle 30s. I would like to think Candy Mossler didn't have anything to do with her husband's murder because we liked her.

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  5. i hope her and her nephew are burning in HELL

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  6. I was friends with her son Dan.
    we went to Kellogg Junior High in Rochester.I always liked Candice but Mel always made me nervous.

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