By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Allie Conti
By Chris Joseph
By Kyle Swenson
When Heidle arrived at the Larzelere house that night, he joined Virginia and Jason, who was complaining about money. Virginia, sitting at the kitchen table, told Jason not to worry, Heidle claimed. Jason would get his $200,000 because he had "taken care of business."
Soon after that conversation, Heidle said, he connected with a chubby 22-year-old named Kris Palmieri, who had once worked at Dr. Larzelere's Edgewater office. At Virginia's direction, Heidle alleged, he and Palmieri took the sawed-off shotgun and a blue, .45 caliber Argentine pistol into the second-story bathroom. Crouching next to the tub, they wiped down both guns in muriatic acid to expunge the prints, he told police. They then stacked them in a plastic container and poured in wet concrete.
Next, Virginia told them to "dispose" of the guns. So Heidle and Palmieri left at dawn the following morning, driving north for hours. They finally discovered Pellicer Creek south of St. Augustine. There, they exited the car and tumbled the guns into its murky waters.
Heidle told police both weapons belonged to Jason; he'd even found a hacksaw resting next to a recently sawed-off shotgun at their West Orlando apartment.
The afternoon of Heidle's statement, Detective Gamell called Palmieri, who quickly buckled under interrogation. At 3:15 p.m. at the police station, she described how she and Heidle had dumped the guns. He had pulled the car over, she wrote in a sworn statement, telling police she followed Virginia's orders because of the control she had over her. "I took out my jack and spare tire and was making it look like we had a flat. I threw the cement container and guns over the side of the bridge, and it was about this time that I realized that maybe Jason did kill his father. Jason said he had killed his father for Virginia... He did not say why."
Heidle provided police with the motive: insurance money. He alleged he'd heard Jason say his mother had forged her husband's life insurance. "She said she's [forged] all of Norman's legal documents and it was no big deal," Heidle volunteered in his statement. And indeed, less than six months before the murder, Norman Larzelere had suddenly increased his insurance from $1 million to $2.1 million, according to court records. Heidle also accused Virginia of doctoring her husband's will, which, according to a copy obtained by New Times, left everything from Dr. Larzelere's estate to his wife and was signed within weeks of the dentist's new life insurance contract.
On May 3, a team of divers appeared at Pellicer Creek and searched its muddy bottom. Gamell stood above the water on the bridge, cradling a shotgun, watching for alligators. Heidle, his blond hair coifed and piled high on his head, pointed to where he'd deposited the weapons.
And sure enough, under ten feet of water and six feet of muck was a plastic container holding a rust-choked shotgun and a .45 Argentine pistol, which had been stolen from an Orlando gun shop. It was all the proof the cops needed. They granted Heidle and Palmieri immunity — meaning that unless they had pulled the trigger, they'd escape all charges.
The next day, police found Virginia driving out of town, with a purse stuffed with cash and gold. She swore she was innocent, but it was too late. "I've dealt with a lot of murders and a lot of deaths, and you know when someone mourns legitimately and when someone's overacting," Gamell said. "That's how she seemed."
To work the case, the state called in special prosecutor Dorothy Sedgwick, a round-faced woman from Orlando. She's a methodical, calculating lawyer and can be cold and aggressive. Or as one opposing attorney called her, "not a likable person" and "remorseless."
For her defense, Virginia enrolled Jack Wilkins, a prominent Orlando-area lawyer who was a friend of her family. At age 44, he was handsome, scruffy, and looked better-suited for a reshooting of Boogie Nights than a courtroom.
Which, all things considered, often suited his clientele. In 1990, Wilkins became one of the most recognizable and flamboyant attorneys in the state when he argued, unsuccessfully, before the state Supreme Court that a Polk County cinema called Varsity Adult Theatre had a constitutional right to sell porno. Wilkins, who had a reputation for hard partying and recently told New Times he drank nearly every night during that time, also banked more than $250,000 annually representing accused drug dealers. "And they paid me cash," he remembers.
Behind dark sunglasses, he embodied the persona of a rock-star attorney. "But I'd never done a capital murder case before," says Wilkins, who claims he tried to turn down the case three or four times. "My primary work was drug importing and distribution."
If statements entered by Wilkins' office manager and three former clients are to believed, however, his inexperience wouldn't be his most crippling problem. At the time of Virginia's trials, appellate records say, Wilkins was putting back a liter of vodka every day, snorting cocaine — even smoking meth.
Wilkins, who installed a bar in his Bartow office, allegedly told one client, Dennis Harris, that he bought meth by the "quarter pound," was on the prowl for a "cheaper drug supplier," and it would "keep him up wired for 6-7 days," court documents filed in a Larzelere appeal show. Another client, Ronald Bilbrey, testified he dealt Wilkins an ounce of coke per month at the time of Larzelere's trial and saw him snort some. And finally, there's Bernadette D'Alvia Eady. She testified that around the time of the trial, she and Wilkins had gone to the bathroom together at a "South Florida nude bottle club." Inside a stall, they drank vodka, smoked meth, and snorted coke off a toilet seat. Wilkins also allegedly confessed he bought meth at $2,000 an ounce.
The author did his research and for editorial reasons did not to share writers private investigative results which identify the perpetrators their motives and relationships with witness Palmieri and the late Steven Heidle. Virginia Larzelere is provable an innocent person as the evidence proves. The opinions and facts have been shared with enforcement and prosecutors. Only to fall on deaf hears. They were known to the defenders of Virginia Larzelere and plead by Virginia's only advocate defender attorney Harry Brody, before Brody entered private practice. Based on the Brody pleadings the court ordered an evidence hearing on the 'ineffective assistance' and 'prove of innocence claims. The quoted lawyer David Henry and subordinates that replaced Brody made a decisions based on economics to use only writers ineffective assistance evidence and testimony. They prevented writer from attesting to the 'prove of innocence' evidence that impeaches the states theory of the murder and proves Heidle and Palmieri lied to cover up a relationship they shared with the perpetrators and others involved in teh day time burglary of the Office of Dr. Norman Larzelere.
Writer solved this murder by investigating the states evidence. The state identified Heidle and Palmieri as the persons that had possession and control of the weapons recovered in the river. These witnesses took authorities to the weapons after admitting they had encased them in concrete. The State with held the fact from the jury that Palmieri and Heidle told conflicting stories as to the origin and storage of the weapons before being disposed. Palmeri attested on a private statement to the prosecution team the weapons had been were stored in the Heidle home attic with a ski mask. Heidle attested they were stored in the home by Virginia and Jason. The conflicting stories were with held from the Grand Jury and because these witnesses consistently told conflicting and unbelievable stories the Orlando State attorney office kept no court reporter record of the grand jury. As the author of the article was told if a member of the original grand jury came forward the conflicts could be proven and Virginia would be free once the misconduct was exposed. In the alternative the state could expend approximately 500.00 and 40 investigative hours to take confessions or simple grant Palmieri immunity once again to tell the truth.
As to the surviving sons and children of Virginia and Norman Larzelere they deserve to see justice served. As a reader answer the question where does one go with prove of innocence and evidence that identifies persons that committed the murder of Norman Larzelere and stole more then 90 weapons that were sold to street person and reportedly used in at least one other murder and criminal activity?
Unusually poor reporting by the New Times. I lived near Edgewater when Dr. Norman Larzelere was killed and I followed the case closely. Thanks to the internet there is still a wide amount of material available for review.
She was found guilty of masterminding the plot, and as the mastermind faced the same penalty--death--as any actual first-degree murderer. Funny how you forget that fact in your article.
You glossed over the resentencing. She is no longer on death row. You did note that she is actually up for parole in a couple years but still, your headline does not reflect that development.
And you did not include tons of other available pieces of evidence easily available for all to see. Her first husband was shot 4 times and they never caught the shooter. Second husband, who was a cop, felt like he was set up by her to be shot and the last husband was shot & killed. Sorry, where there is smoke there is fire.
I especially like her own words here where she laments she has not seen her son Jason or her daughter Jessica in over a decade. Why didn't she comment on her other children, David and Benjamin? Dr. Larzelere was their biological father. Doesn't she miss them too?
Do you guys ever read the stories you right? This isn't a case of a failed justice system. But a case of poor judgment on her behalf. Why would you keep an incompetent lawyer? Who cares if it is a family friend a public defender would have been better in this case.
Incredible article (and well written). Nicely done. One thing I don't get (and maybe I missed it as I was watching Jose Fernandez pitch his final game of the season while reading this), was that if Heidle was the shooter, did he have any motive? Or was he just supposedly a violent and sadistic jerk?
Incredible article (and well written). Nicely done. One thing I don't get (and maybe I missed it as I was watching Jose Fernandez pitch his final game of the season while reading this), was that if Heidle was the shooter, did he have any motive?
@CybrdoogieThanks for your comment. This story was based on court records, police documents, and concrete charges. The claims you've mentioned never merited a single charge, and, as such, weren't of much consequence to this story. Virginia Larzelere is no longer on death row, correct. We mentioned that fact within the first 500 words of the story -- and again at the end. Much appreciation for your reading.
@FatHand There was no motive, he was just introduced as a suspect in Jason's trial to show that they didn't ID the shooter as Jason for sure. It wouldn't have been useful in Virginia's trial, since she was convicted of hiring someone to murder her husband. Whether she hired her son Jason or Steven is the "reasonable doubt" that they used to get Jason off the hook, but Virginia was still involved in both those scenarios.
I am sorry but the title of the article is pretty disingenuous. Yes, you did commment on her no longer being on death row but the title of the article does not reflect that development. You interviewed Virginia a few times for the article and could have easily asked her about the shooting of her first husband as well as the situation with the second husband. There are numerous newspaper articles widely available on the net referencing both situations. Didn't you do any research before writing this piece?
Instead of an objective article, your article sounds like a fluff piece demanding action for a wrongly-convicted woman. Virginia Larzelere is anything but that.
I would be interested if she mentioned David and Benjamin to you at all during your interviews. If not, like I said--very telling.