The partying possibly even spilled over into trial, which began in early 1992 with Dorothy Sedgwick striding across a Daytona Beach courtroom in a blazer. While she was busy making the case that Virginia Larzelere was a cold, manipulative killer over 13 days of prosecution testimony, six trial attendees — including two prosecutors — remembered they smelled alcohol on Wilkins' breath, court records show. Sedgwick, who didn't immediately alert the court, later expressed dismay because, she said, it was "such a serious case."

But there were other serious concerns for Wilkins. In mid-February, at the height of the trial, he received a Florida Bar complaint that claimed he refused to refund a client a $25,000 retainer. What's more, the federal government later learned, he had substantially underreported that money on his income taxes — in addition to many other significant inconsistencies on his tax returns. (On September 22, 1995, Wilkins pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges that included the laundering of drug money, income tax evasion, perjury, and obstruction of justice. A federal judge in Tampa sentenced him to four years in federal prison, and he resigned from the state bar.)

It got worse. A 1992 report in the Daytona Beach News-Journal showed that the wayward Wilkins was also in a romantic relationship with the trial court reporter. According to that report, Sedgwick knew of the affair but didn't report it, though she'd been "somewhat concerned." ("She was my girlfriend," Wilkins claims.)

Virginia Larzelere smiles at her defense attorney, Jack Wilkins, during a pause in her 1992 trial.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Virginia Larzelere smiles at her defense attorney, Jack Wilkins, during a pause in her 1992 trial.
Norman Larzelere
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Norman Larzelere

So maybe it was the booze, the alleged drug use, or the financial misdealings. Perhaps, even, it was the sex with the court reporter. But whatever the reason, Jack Wilkins reported he spent less than $3,000 on Larzelere's defense, according to court records. Then, after the state entered more than 70 pieces of evidence, Wilkins countered with exactly one day of defense. Worse, he didn't enlist even one expert to refute any of Heidle's claims, which were the crux of the state's case.

"There wasn't really much an expert could testify to," says Wilkins, who today lives in Spanish Fort, Alabama, with his wife. "And I've never used drugs in my life. I don't know where that came from. It's a bunch of bull... If you watched the trial tape, you'd see I didn't do a bad job."

His confidence wasn't born out in the result. On February 24, after just one hour of deliberation, the jury found Virginia Larzelere guilty of first-degree murder. But it didn't know Steven Heidle had lied about a few important things.


Weeks after Virginia's conviction, inside a 12th-floor office overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, a phone rang. Wearing sandals and a mustache, attorney William Lasley picked up. Tall and thin, he exuded self-assurance. He exclusively wore suits that cost more than $1,000, rented an oceanside penthouse condo, drove an all-white 944 Porsche Turbo, and accepted only murder-one cases.

Lasley had closely monitored Virginia's trial with mounting abhorrence — not for the state's allegations against her but because her defense was so awful. "It was just absolute incompetence," he said. "Wilkins wasn't a murder lawyer. Murder is the Super Bowl, and you don't go to the big game with your B team."

Now, he had just taken Jason Larzelere's defense. That same day, he placed calls to a dozen experts to dig into the state's evidence. What Lasley discovered over the next several weeks was shocking. Virginia Larzelere didn't forge the signature on her husband's will, according to handwriting expert Shirl Solomon from Palm Springs, Florida. Dated August 19, 1992, her assessment also showed the notary's signature was genuine. Then an insurance analyst confirmed the life insurance policies weren't excessive.

Heidle had also testified that Jason was obsessed with guns. He said the younger Larzelere owned a .45 Argentine pistol that Jason adored and that, before the murder, Heidle had seen a sawed-off shotgun sitting on a bed of metal shavings next to a hacksaw near the couch. When police had searched the apartment, they did, in fact, find metal shavings. But there was a problem, Lasley learned. Those slivers didn't match the alloy in the shotgun retrieved from Pellicer Creek.

Another bombshell soon arrived. At Virginia Larzelere's trial, Heidle and Kris Palmieri both testified they'd mixed the concrete at Virginia Larzelere's house. Police found concrete there inside a cooking pot, seemingly linking the older Larzelere to the murder weapon. But then, Lasley discovered, the concrete at Larzelere's place didn't match that found in the case with the guns in Pellicer Creek.

"This was vital exculpatory information," seethes attorney David Hendry, with the state Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, which has tried to get Virginia out of prison. "It would not only have impeached Heidle and Palmieri's testimony but it would have distanced Virginia Larzelere from the concrete-encased weapons. Had Wilkins presented [this], she would have been acquitted."

During the weeks before the trial, Lasley also built an unsettling profile of the state's star witness. Heidle was insecure, money-driven, and highly dishonest, his friends said. Four of them gave statements alleging he had lied to authorities. "Steve was always looking for money," said Sarah Gabrys, a drag queen living in Orlando who first met Heidle at a gay club. "It was his main topic of conversation. How he wanted money, how he'd get it, and what he'd do with it. Personally, I don't believe a word he says. People don't trust him."

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10 comments
jpmorgan3
jpmorgan3

I believe Terrence McCoy is the fruit cake here.  Terrence,  she really is guilty. Life without parole.

leejean21
leejean21

This woman is not a victim of injustice.  She had an incestuous relationship with her son and used him to kill her husband.  The ONLY reason her son is not in jail is because his face was covered and there was not enough evidence to show that he was the shooter beyond a reasonable doubt.  Eye witnesses at the crime scene all heard the victim call out his step son's name before he died(i.e.Jason is that you? Jason!), and they testified that she began to press her mouth to his, so he could not get any more words out. Not to mention she gave the murder weapon to her house staff and told them to clean it and dispose of it. She is disgusting and belongs where she is.

CheckpointCharlie73
CheckpointCharlie73

Most criminal defense attorneys do tons of drugs, drink like fish, and are involved with court personnel if they can, and are usually robbing some client or another. This guy was a typical lawyer. Additionally, if he was screwing the court reporter, that could only help his client, since she could interpret the transcript in the client's favor. 


jamjamaa
jamjamaa

What the hell is a "nude bottle club"?

Kzm Ufc
Kzm Ufc

That status sounds an awful lot like government and religion.

cooperschuler
cooperschuler

just as Carol implied I am startled that anybody able to make $5040 in 1 month on the computer. find more information == > w­w­w.B­a­y­9­3.ℂ­o­m

Betty Perez
Betty Perez

And yet the smell of a dead body in the trunk of a pathological mother whose missing daughter was later found dead was too circumstantial. Oh yeah Florida...

Chard Beauregarde
Chard Beauregarde

Not an actual like, but an upvote of support for this to be seen.

jenkemjones
jenkemjones

@leejean21 I think she and her son belong in an unmarked grave near their place of execution.  The witnesses saw Jason do it but the jury was told to ignore that because Jason wore a mask.

leejean21
leejean21

@Chard Beauregarde Larzelere is guilty. She confessed to her personal assistant and house staff at the time and they advised police that she made them clean and dump the murder weapon (which was found where they said it would be). Also, she took out 2.1 million in life insurance policies on her husband and called to make sure they were payable days before his murder.

 
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