By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
It was such an innocent statement, with such a sinister meaning.
"The weather's good here," Fred said. "I'm telling you, the weather's very good here."
In the parlance of two men brought together by murder for hire, the phrase was a prearranged code, the signal that Fred had finally killed Glenn Sandler's wife. He had dumped her body and covered it with lime. The job was done. Betty's BMW had been left in a grocery store parking lot. Now Fred just had to hand over her belongings and get paid.
No day goes by without a domestic dispute in the news, but the Sandlers' is a particularly egregious tale of breakup woes and of the lengths a man will go to bring a nasty divorce to a sudden end. Glenn Sandler was an experienced pilot, a successful businessman, and owner of the popular Gourmet Deli House restaurant in Lake Worth. He was nothing if not persistent. The woman who knew his secrets and wanted his money had to be eliminated.
Acquaintances say Sandler, then 52, was a man of few words and fewer friends. As his marriage unspooled, he had become so isolated, angry, and desperate that he disregarded caution and put his fate in one man's hands. Now Fred, the man he'd come to know and trust, was about to turn on him.
Many details of Glenn Sandler's quest seem so bumbling, vicious, and melodramatic that they read more like fiction than true crime. Yet if they were made up, someone could have chosen a more picturesque meeting place than the parking lot of the Office Depot on Lake Worth Road. Sandler and Fred had met there before, to complain about the crack dealer who'd brought them together, to plan a drug run, and to determine how Fred would kill Betty. Today, they'd have their final encounter. It was 1:45 p.m. November 9, 2005. Sandler parked his silver Infiniti SUV and squeezed into Fred's car.
As a recording of their conversation would later reveal, they didn't discuss details such as how or where Fred had killed Betty. There had been only one special instruction: what Fred's last words to Betty should be.
"I told her the saying you wanted me to tell her," Fred reported. "I said, 'Is this enough?'?"
Sandler could only mumble: "Yeah?"
Fred dangled Betty's car keys. Did Sandler want them?
Her cell phone?
Yeah, to see who she'd been calling.
Fred handed it over, and then, in a brotherly tone, said, "Take the battery off the back and get in the ocean with it."
Sandler passed Fred a manila envelope containing $15,000 in 100s and 50s. Fred protested -- it was too much.
"No, no, no," Sandler said, satisfied that someone had finally finished the job. Twice before, he'd doled out $5,000 deposits for this, and twice before, he'd been burned. In fact, if Fred "wanted another five or whatever, I could -- "
No, it was settled. Fred accepted the money.
Now they'd have to get through the investigation that would surely come. Sandler felt a little shaken, but he knew what to expect: He'd receive a call from his two grown sons, Geoff ("just a total loser") and Greg (the one he'd "do anything for"), who would be looking for their missing mother. The police would come knocking soon after. But Sandler had an alibi: He'd been with a handyman all day at home.
They looked forward to making more drug-running trips together as soon as the heat was off from this little episode. "When do you think I'll hear from you again?" Sandler asked.
"You call me," Fred said. "I'd kind of want things to settle down with you a little bit. Become a nun, bro. Go to church Sunday!"
"I'm a preacher right now!" Sandler laughed. "Nice doing business with you," he said as he got out of the car.
"Let me adjust my mirrors," Fred said. "Jesus Christ..."
Ten SWAT team officers surrounded Sandler, placing him under arrest for solicitation to commit first-degree murder and for trafficking in cocaine. "Fred" identified himself as an undercover detective with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and read Sandler his rights.
The Gourmet Deli House makes a powerful corned beef sandwich -- "as big as a man's fist," says Rich Hardy, who managed the restaurant in the 1990s. Served hot, on freshly baked rye bread, "OUR FAMOUS HOT CORNED BEEF" screams from the menu in capital letters, the deli's signature item.
Glenn Sandler apparently bought the restaurant in 1986, when he was 33 years old. Hardy says he was "one of the sharpest, smartest businessmen I've ever met." Sandler, who had never run a restaurant before, worked from open to close, learning every part of the job, from cooking briskets to handling catering to using the slicing machine.
Glenn Dowler, who worked at the deli from 1984 until 2005, when he left to go into business with Hardy, says that Sandler kept good people employed by offering a decent wage. It was his management style that sucked. "Anytime one of our key people wanted a raise," Dowler says, "he'd call them in the office and try to scare them out of even asking." During salary discussions, he would snap pencils and throw ashtrays.