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
This is the last in a series. To read the other parts, visit our Special Report Unusual Suspects.
Not long before Rick Weed and Jane Gosnell were found dead in their bedroom, a man from their past named Roger Lee Sexton showed up at the Coral Springs estate they called home. Roger was an old friend who seemed intent on creating an aura of mystique and danger. He was a wannabe archaeologist in the vein of Indiana Jones, a drug dealer, a self-proclaimed mercenary, and a collector of photographs of murder victims, some of whom he boasted he had killed himself.
The truth was hard to know, for Roger was, above all, an unrepentant con man.
But for all his sociopathic tendencies, Roger could be quite jolly. Hailing from rural Kentucky, he possessed a Southern-fried charm and wit that put people at ease. As one friend puts it, he "hid the meanness in him very well."
Barbara Gordon believes the meanness came out of Roger in a horrible way during the May 1988 morning that Rick and Jane died. She has repeatedly told police that she believes Roger killed her friends in the house she shared with her millionaire husband, Bobby. She has no proof, though, just a burgeoning collection of circumstantial evidence that includes strange actions and statements, shifting loyalties, and two more extremely suspicious deaths in Kentucky.
The case she makes against Roger starts with a knock on her door.
Barbara and Rick knew Roger from their days back in Ohio in the early 1970s. The two men were never very close, but they shared a passion for drag-racing motorcycles and partying until the early-morning hours. After Rick moved to Florida in 1976, they had only sporadic contact, bumping into each other every five years or so.
During the 1980s, Roger's various exploits brought him enough wealth to buy a big house and several houseboats in Kentucky, where rumors circulated that he was a drug dealer. He also owned a place in Tampa and an airplane. He claimed to be an archaeologist and, in one of his more exotic scams, used false credentials to get his hands on rare artifacts. In February 1988, he went to Mexico on a dig and, after the trip, stopped by the Gordon home on March 1 to visit Rick. "I saw a mansion," Roger would later recall in a deposition. Rick, he claimed, "was kicked back, girls waiting on him hand and foot, had to be a million-plus home... And we just started like old times, you know, partying and enjoying talking about the past."
Roger stayed two days in the mansion and soon became aware that his kicked-back friend had drawn the ire of the homeowner, Bobby Gordon, who believed Rick was stealing Barbara's affections. At times, the two men traded death threats. Roger later claimed that Rick had invoked the fact that he was a mercenary to scare Bobby.
It was a complicated and dangerous situation, but that only seemed to attract Roger. He called Rick a week after leaving the house and told him he was returning to South Florida the next month to marry his Colombian girlfriend, Clarita. Roger arrived on April 12, four days before the wedding, and checked into the Howard Johnson's Hotel in Deerfield Beach. Barbara, Rick, and Jane spent a lot of time at the hotel with Roger, who Barbara claims offered them all cocaine. She says none of them accepted the powder. Barbara also later told police that Roger had tried to involve Rick in a $20,000 cocaine deal but that he'd rejected the proposition.
On April 23, a week after the wedding, Roger left town with a promise he would soon return. He called Rick on the afternoon of May 2, after lunching with Rick's mother, Opal Atchinson, in Ohio. The next morning, Barbara found 40-year-old Rick and 36-year-old Jane dead in their bed, surrounded by unexplained signs of a crime. Jane's face was battered, and her panties were cut. There was a bullet hole in their headboard, and Rick's gun had been stolen. Though Rick and Jane didn't normally use cocaine, there was enough of it in their stomachs and bloodstreams to kill them many times over. Their 9-year-old son, Andy, had slept in a room nearby, apparently undisturbed.
A devastated Barbara immediately suspected that Bobby, who hated Rick and claimed to have hired a hit man to kill him, was behind the untimely deaths. Within a week, Barbara began to suspect that the hit man was Roger. The day after the deaths, he committed what Barbara considers his first suspicious act: He called her at home, told her she wasn't safe, and asked for Bobby's phone number. He called Bobby that day, but what was said remains unknown to Barbara.
At Rick's funeral in Ohio, Roger again told Barbara that her life was in danger, that Bobby was behind the deaths of Rick and Jane, and that, to be safe, she needed to live on one of his houseboats in Kentucky. Barbara was dead-set against the idea. "I didn't see anything sinister in it at the time," she recalls. "I just thought he was trying to be kind. And then he just became so insistent about it, like I had to go to Kentucky, that I became suspicious."