By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
These discoveries laid the groundwork for a wholly speculative police theory that Rick and Jane died of a cocaine overdose while having a wild sex party, Barbara says. But that, of course, doesn't explain the gun shot, the stolen weapon, or why two people who don't normally use cocaine would suddenly consume insane amounts of the drug. It also fails to take into account that Jane was menstruating at the time and had a sanitary napkin in place when she died. Finally, the autopsy found no sign that either victim had sex.
Police also have voiced suspicions that Barbara Gordon may have cleaned up the crime scene prior to calling 9-1-1. Barbara says detectives have at times gone as far as to label her a suspect, which suits her fine. "Please name me a suspect, because then the police would have to admit that it wasn't an accident," she says.
Barbara has been on a 16-year mission to persuade authorities that her friends' deaths were no accident. Now 50 years old, she has spent nearly a quarter-million dollars and hired a slew of lawyers, former prosecutors, and private investigators to do what police haven't done -- properly investigate the case. And their work has proven both provocative and convincing. Even Wright, the former M.E., has admitted to Barbara's lawyers in letters and sworn statements that he should have listed the deaths as unclassified and called his original determination "facially unbelievable." He also remained angry about the police denials of the deaths, saying cops broke Florida laws and altered the scene of the crime. In a 1991 sworn statement commissioned by Barbara, Wright said he met with the police chief at the time, Warren Gilbert, who gave him a poor explanation for the lies: "[Gilbert] said there were a lot of press people around that day and they were having some kind of open house... and they did not want us to know about it. I said, 'Well, you realize that is a crime?' And he said he did realize that."
When briefly interviewed for this series, Wright, who was fired from his job by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994 for a pattern of dubious rulings, said that "there obviously must have been someone else in the room" with Rick and Jane when they died. Then he abruptly got off the phone.
Barbara didn't stop with Wright. She also hired the chief medical examiner in Atlanta, Joseph Burton, to examine the case. He determined that it should have been classified a double homicide. "Based on medical, forensic, and investigative evaluations, it is very hard to conclude that these deaths are accidents," Burton wrote. "In order to conclude such, one has to accept an almost impossible and implausible theory, i.e., they simultaneously... died from [a cocaine overdose]."
Barbara points to an obvious motive for the Coral Springs police to suppress a homicide: They didn't want the bad publicity that such a crime would bring, especially since it happened in one of the suburban sanctuary's poshest neighborhoods. If Wright is correct, they were even willing to lie and break the law to keep it quiet.
But if Rick and Jane were murdered, how did it happen? Barbara says that when she bid her best friends good night at about 10:30 or 11 p.m., they were both fine. Jane's son, Andy, rose at about 7 a.m. to find his mother's door locked. That leaves an eight-hour window for the murders to have been committed. Barbara's theory, based on the opinions of numerous experts, is that someone paid the couple a visit late that night, very likely somebody they knew. That person then had them swallow a cocktail containing the secobarbital and possibly other unknown intoxicants. Rick may have taken it willingly, but Jane likely resisted, which explains the bullet in the wall, fired to frighten her. It also explains the abrasions on Jane's chin and nose -- precisely where marks would be expected if someone pried her mouth open.
Barbara believes those drugs rendered Rick and Jane helpless, allowing the killer to administer the large amounts of cocaine. Based on one toxicologist's opinion, she thinks there's a very good chance that the killer injected a cocaine/water mixture from a plastic syringe into their rectums, allowing the drug to bypass the liver and become absorbed almost directly into the bloodstream. It also explains the cut panties. Such a method would have also avoided the difficult task of forcing Rick and Jane to swallow the stuff.
Then the perpetrator likely laid them on their bed and sprinkled the still-unknown white substance on their faces and bodies to make it appear they took the cocaine themselves. Why the killer didn't use the actual drug, which would have been more convincing, can't be explained, other than sheer sloppiness, like leaving behind the tied garbage bag.
Barbara, whose room was on the other end of the estate, could easily have slept through everything but the gunshot. She believes the weapon was likely equipped with a silencer. But she admits that the two Dobermans in the house, Buckeye and Crystal, wouldn't have slept through such a thing. They would have barked the moment any stranger came into the house.