A former Louisiana State Penitentiary inmate credited with helping solve the 1987 murders of a Biloxi, Miss., judge and his wife died Thursday night at Mississippi State Penitentiary, a Mississippi corrections spokeswoman said.
Bobby Joe Fabian, 67, had hoped to gain his freedom in return for providing information to investigators that enabled them to make arrests in the contract slayings of Biloxi Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and Margaret Sherry, a former Biloxi councilwoman.
Fabian died, however, in the Parchman prison’s hospital, corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth said.
He suffered from congestive heart failure and liver disease.
Retired FBI agent Keith Bell said Fabian, then an inmate at Angola, gave information about the conspirators having a contract killer, John Elbert Ransome, of Georgia, travel to Biloxi to discuss killing the couple.
Because Ransome crossed state lines to meet with the people who wanted the Sherrys killed, the federal government was able to enter what had, until then, been a local investigation, Bell said.
Bell said Fabian also provided the names of “players” involved in the conspiracy, including Angola inmate Kirksey McCord Nix Jr.
Federal prosecutors, in two trials involving different elements of the crime, eventually convicted Nix, former Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat, Biloxi striptease club owner Mike Gillich, Ransome, the actual killer, Thomas Holcomb, and others.
Nix and Fabian, whose actual surname is Faubion, were involved in scams they operated from behind bars that amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1980s through the mail and by telephone.
The scammers persuaded men outside of prison that they were young gay men who would come live with them but needed money to get out of minor scrapes with the law. In some cases, the inmates would pretend to be women and target “lonely hearts.”
Federal prosecutors alleged, and a Mississippi jury agreed, that Nix trusted Halat to keep his money in a safety deposit box, but Halat took some of the money and blamed Vincent Sherry, who had been Halat’s law partner.
Gillich, who helped secure Holcomb’s services, also wanted Margaret Sherry dead because she campaigned against his strip clubs.
Nix is serving a life sentence in federal prison, and Halat is scheduled to be released in April. Gillich, who later implicated Halat and Holcomb, died April 28 a free man.
Fabian was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life in Louisiana for shooting a state trooper and a town marshal in the legs in 1970, shortly after he escaped from federal custody in Oklahoma.
Mississippi juries also convicted him of armed robbery and the murder of a wealthy Memphis, Tenn., horse breeder and bond expert. Fabian confessed to the murder but later recanted, saying he took the rap as a favor to an organized crime family.
“I took the beef for that. I already had forever to do. When you’re young and dumb …,” Fabian said in a 2009 interview at Hunt Correctional Center.
Former U.S. Attorney George Phillips, Bell and the Sherrys’ daughters tried unsuccessfully in 2007 to win a sentence commutation for Fabian, but the Louisiana Pardon Board turned him down.