By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Allie Conti
By Chris Joseph
By Kyle Swenson
In 1998, he tracked down a curly haired petty criminal named Kristopher Harvey, who admitted his brother had stolen and sold the pistol that had wound up in Pellicer Creek. According to that interview, Harvey said, the Larzelere family had been targeted because they were rich. "Virginia Larzelere wasn't the one who bought any of our weapons, nor her son," he said. "Virginia Larzelere wasn't the one who did [the murder]. The guy who [got] the .45, he wasn't going to [rob Larzelere] and just get a little bit. He went there to get everything he could. And whatever happened, happened."
McDaniel asked Harvey if he knew Heidle, and Harvey responded that he did. Then, McDaniel recalls, he showed Harvey a picture of Heidle and asked, "Did your brother sell the pistol to this person?" Harvey nodded yes.
On December 17, 1999, Heidle hanged himself with an electrical cord. His mother, Patricia, found him near the family pool and cut him down with a knife. "I tried to catch him, but I couldn't," she told police, adding that he'd tried to kill himself seven times before that.
Larzelere suspected the suicide was related to her case, but there was nothing she could do. So she acclimated to a new life. "Death row is the last stop," she says. "Everyone is your friend. It's a sisterhood, because you never know when the death warrant will be signed. We share everything." She and the other women ate, showered, and took walks together every day. Everyone but Wuornos, that is. She sometimes screeched deep into the night, bathed only every other month, and referred to Larzelere as Cher.
Soon, however, the sisterhood broke apart. On March 30, 1998, Buenoano became the first woman Florida had executed in 150 years. Next went Wuornos, who once whispered to Larzelere that she'd actually killed 17 men, not six. Larzelere was eventually left alone inside the pink-paneled X Dorm — as Florida's only female death row inhabitant — with nothing but memories. "I never thought for one minute I'd be found guilty of murder," she told New Times. "Not for something I didn't do. I'm guilty of a lot... I cheated on my husband. I was a home wrecker. I only cared about money. But I'm just not guilty of this. Do I deserve to be punished for the things I've done? Yes. But do I deserve this? No."
She added: "My reputation convicted me, and I never got the benefit of the doubt."
But in 2008, she finally did. Citing the fact that Larzelere's attorneys hadn't called a single witness to testify on her behalf at her sentencing, the Florida Supreme Court removed her from death row. "In the years that I've been up here, I don't remember a situation in which we have had as many problems with the lawyers," said Justice Charles Wells, who had then sat on the high court for 13 years.
Larzelere's attorney, David Hendry, had pushed the court to vacate her conviction, but on February 28, 2008, it rejected that appeal, ruling that experts at trial wouldn't have saved Larzelere. "Given the overwhelming evidence of Larzelere's guilt, even favorable testimony by these sorts of experts would not have undermined our confidence in the verdict," the court said, remanding her case back to a lower court for sentencing.
That August, Circuit Judge Joseph Will gave her a life sentence. And, perhaps, that modicum of leniency will be enough. She's up for parole in 2015 and then, finally, the system may set her free. Helping that cause, while incarcerated, she's been disciplined only once, on September 23, 2004, for a minor infraction, according to her prison record.
Hendry isn't satisfied, though. "This is an unsolved murder," he tells New Times. "There were inconsistent verdicts. One jury acquitted the alleged shooter, but another jury convicted Ms. Larzelere of masterminding that same shooting. So what really happened? Who was the shooter? We don't know. But the bottom line here is there was more than enough reasonable doubt. If we don't know who the actual shooter was, we have doubt."
On a recent Thursday afternoon at Homestead Correctional Institute, inside a room bathed in blue and pastel, Virginia Larzelere, now 61, contemplates her fate. Hands stitched together on her lap, she laughs softly and shakes her head. She hasn't seen her son, Jason, or daughter, Jessica, in more than a decade.
So she finds satisfaction in the small things. She crochets, prays, and teaches English. She also nurtures hope. "One day, it will all come out," she sighs. "People will know what happened and know that everything they've heard about me wasn't true."
Then, slowly, she withdraws a letter. It arrived last year without a return address, she says, signed by someone named Kris and addressed to "Ginny" — which is what Kris Palmieri once called Virginia. (Repeated attempts to contact Palmieri weren't returned, and New Times couldn't verify the letter's author.) "I know you didn't have Doc killed," it says. "And I never thought you would be convicted. Then it was too late to say anything to correct it. I am sorry. I tried to find Jason to apologize, but couldn't. I lived a lie all of these years. I understand you are fine and hope you'll accept my apology."
After reading the letter out loud, Virginia carefully folds it up. She isn't sure it's genuine. But she hopes it is.
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.