FROM THE VAULT: Judge Vincent Sherry and wife Margaret murdered in Biloxi

The shocking double shooting in 1987 took years for investigators to solve.
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLBT) - On the evening of Monday, September 14, 1987, Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, Margaret, a former Biloxi city councilwoman and potential candidate for mayor, were shot to death inside their home.

Judge Vincent Sherry in 1986
Judge Vincent Sherry in 1986(WLOX)
Margaret Sherry
Margaret Sherry(WLOX)

Their bodies were found two days later by Judge Sherry’s friend and law partner, Pete Halat, who was concerned when Sherry missed a court hearing.

Outside the Sherry home on September 16, 1987
Outside the Sherry home on September 16, 1987(WLOX)

For two years, no one was arrested, and the unsolved case seemed to go cold. Then WLBT got a tip that investigators were interviewing prison inmates several hundred miles away.

In 1989, reporter Ed Bryson traveled to the Louisiana State Prison at Angola.

He talked with Bobby Joe Fabian, an inmate who claimed the murders were the result of a scam Fabian had been running with fellow inmate Kirksey McCord Nix.

WLBT reporter Ed Bryson interviews Bobby Joe Fabian at Angola in July 1989
WLBT reporter Ed Bryson interviews Bobby Joe Fabian at Angola in July 1989(WLBT)

Fabian told Ed and investigators that the money from their scam was funneled through Pete Halat’s law office. Halat shared that office with Judge Sherry. When some of the money disappeared, Fabian said Halat blamed Sherry -- so Nix wanted Judge Sherry punished.

“The Sherrys was killed because a hit was put on them by Peter Halat and Kirksey Nix,” Fabian told WLBT during the interview. He also provided other details about how the murders were planned and carried out.

Halat was Nix’s attorney but said he was outraged at Fabian’s allegation.

“To suggest that my representation of an inmate in Angola would connect me to a case involving my best and dearest friend is just preposterous,” Halat told Bryson in 1989. By then, Halat had been elected mayor of Biloxi.

In 1991, a federal grand jury indicted four people, but not Halat. They were convicted for their roles in either the Sherry murders or the prison scam.

The case took a new turn in 1996, when Halat was indicted along with four others, based on testimony from Biloxi strip-club owner Mike Gillich, who ultimately tied the whole case together.

Gillich explained to the feds and a jury how the whole scheme worked, and he confirmed much of what Bobby Joe Fabian had told WLBT. One key difference in Gillich’s account was who pulled the trigger. Gillich said Thomas Holcomb was the man ultimately hired to do the job.

Gillich was among those indicted. All were convicted and sentenced to prison.

Halat got 18 years for conspiracy related to the prison scam. After his release in 2013, Halat continued to insist he had nothing to do with the murders.

“If I would have known anything about it, I would have done everything in my power to prevent it,” he told WLOX in 2013.

Halat is now 81 and still lives on the Coast. Gillich was released after serving nine years of a 20-year sentence and died of cancer in 2012. Bobby Joe Fabian died at Parchman in 2012.

Holcomb died in prison in 2005. Nix, now 80, is serving a life sentence without parole at a federal prison in Oklahoma.

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