Conspiracy, She Wrote

For years private detective Virginia Snyder has accused the Delray Beach police of corruption. Now she's taking them to court.

Several days later Adams called Robert Musco at home, a sergeant with the Delray Beach Police Department. Although Musco had known the Adams family for years, he hadn't seen Nancy since she was a young girl. It seemed peculiar to him that she had his unlisted home phone number and had used it to call and invite herself to the police station. Stranger still was that Adams claimed to have a list of all of the Delray Beach officers' unpublished home phone numbers and addresses, and she told Musco that she could produce any information she wanted about the force. "All this stuff that's supposed to be in your personnel jacket at City Hall, this girl's spitting out," Musco said in testimony taken by Reno's office. "She knew what high school I went to."

Adams told Musco that the information came through Robert Sylvester, a former Delray Beach police officer involved at the time in a legal tussle with the department. Sylvester, she said, provided data about police officers to Virginia Snyder, Inc., a licensed private detective agency staffed by Virginia Snyder; her husband Ross Snyder, now age 76, who performs administrative tasks for the agency; and her nephew, private investigator K. Wayne Campbell, now age 36.

Musco reported this news to a superior in the department, while Adams began bringing him documents from Snyder's office. He promptly photocopied them and returned the originals to Adams. In all, the Delray Beach Police Department ended up with hundreds of pages of documents. Musco, who declined to comment for this article, claimed in testimony that he never asked for any of it.


Read related New Times story, "Police Beat"

"Virginia Snyder believes she [Adams] was used by the Delray Beach [police] department out of some vendetta to get her [Snyder] and that they had improper motives," notes Fred H. Gelston, the West Palm Beach civil defense attorney who represents Kilgore and three other police officers named in Snyder's civil suit: Musco, Allen W. Cole (now retired from the Delray Beach police force), and Richard Lincoln (a former Delray Beach cop who in 1996 was promoted to the second-in-command job at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office). Like Musco, Kilgore and Lincoln refused comment for this story.

"Because of the hard feelings that went both ways in this case," Gelston adds, "Virginia Snyder has concluded that people in the police department were quote unquote 'out to get her.'"

It is, in fact, a rather suspicious chronology of events: On May 26, 1989 -- four days after Adams first approached Snyder -- at his weekly breakfast meeting with then-City Manager Walter Barry, Kilgore revealed that the police department had a mole in Snyder's office, according to Barry's testimony to the state attorney.

On July 14, 1989, the Delray Beach police equipped Adams with a hidden recording device and instructed her to enter Snyder's office. They later claimed it was part of a legal investigation because Snyder had allegedly told Adams to commit perjury in a criminal case.

That's nonsense, Snyder says now. "She [Adams] kept saying, 'I'll testify, I'll testify,'" Snyder recalls. "They have me on tape saying, 'You tell the truth when you testify.'"

On August 7, 1989, Snyder received a phone call from a woman at the Palm Beach County courthouse in West Palm Beach. Two manila envelopes with Snyder's business letterhead had been found there. Snyder rushed to the courthouse that afternoon to collect the documents. Snyder recognized Adams' handwriting on the envelopes, which contained a set of privileged notes taken from an interview Snyder had conducted with Norberto Pietri, a client who was accused, and later convicted, of murdering West Palm Beach Police Officer Brian Chappell. "I'm thinking," Snyder now recalls ponderously, "how did two documents from my office end up there?"

On August 18, 1989, Snyder called a press conference to inform the public of the recording device and the lost documents. That same day Kilgore promoted Sergeant Musco to lieutenant. "In my opinion that was Kilgore's m.o.," Snyder offers. "He promoted people that were good to him."

On August 30, 1989, the police admitted sending Adams in with a body bug, but denied telling her to take documents. "I was never instructed by any of my supervisors to do anything, ask for anything, to request any information," Musco later said in testimony. "I mean, she [Adams] was just producing, producing, producing, giving, giving, giving."

"Were you reading it when she gave it to you?" asked the assistant state attorney who was taking the deposition.

"Some of it I was, but it was such -- you know, it was such horse shit that I got sick of it," he replied. "You know, same stuff, you know, Kilgore's corrupt, uneducated, he failed high school."

In fact Snyder had been freely making such accusations since 1973, back when she still worked as a newspaper reporter at the Boca Raton News and made her first investigation into the Delray Beach Police Department. In March of that year a Delray Beach police officer shot and killed a sixteen-year-old Mexican-American boy named Bridigo Cabrera. Snyder's subsequent investigation of the boy's death would engender the first of a quarter-century's worth of encounters with the Delray Beach cops.

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