Unusual Suspects, Part I | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Unusual Suspects, Part I

She writes on a computer at her sprawling, million-dollar home in northwest Broward horse country. The office walls are covered with University of Miami sports memorabilia. That's her husband's stuff. Behind a steel cabinet is a loaded, pistol-handled, black, 12-gauge shotgun. That's definitely hers.

Barbara Gordon knows how to handle guns, which are strategically located in most rooms of her 4,500 square-foot home in Country Acres, north of Coral Springs. She's admittedly paranoid, which also helps to explain all the surveillance cameras and the two large Dobermans, Ikeman and Liberty, in the room. They don't play with strangers.

Yes, the former secretary is well-protected as she types up her story, which in many ways is a typical South Florida potboiler. The book's seminal action -- the murder of a couple in a million-dollar Coral Springs home -- is steeped in cocaine. Everybody in it is from somewhere else, and it's filled with big money, beautiful women, kinky sex, and a passel of inept, possibly corrupt cops.

But this story isn't fiction. The deaths of Barbara's two best friends and housemates, Rick Weed and Jane Gosnell, made headlines 16 years ago. She discovered their naked bodies on May 2, 1988, shortly after taking Jane's 9-year-old son, Andy, to school. On the bed where they apparently died was a bullet hole in the headboard. The copper projectile was still lodged in the wall when police showed up. But they weren't shot. There was, as one toxicologist put it, a "shitload" of cocaine in their bodies, enough to kill them 18 times over. But there was no trace of the drug in the room or on their bodies. If that wasn't strange enough, Jane had a cut on the bridge of her nose, another on her chin, and her panties had been cut off her body.

The Coral Springs Police Department, protective of the town's safe suburban image and unaccustomed to tough homicide cases, conducted only a scant -- and very flawed -- investigation. They determined that Rick and Jane had died of simultaneous recreational cocaine overdoses, a highly unlikely occurrence that had never before happened in Broward County. Even then-Medical Examiner Ronald Wright admitted it was a rather implausible ruling, though he agreed with it. The cut panties and lack of cocaine in the room have never been explained. And the fact that Rick and Jane, who were engaged, didn't use cocaine seemed to be lost on the detectives, as was the fact that they had one dire enemy at the time: multimillionaire Bobby Gordon, Barbara's husband.

Barbara knows in her gut that someone other than the couple must have been involved, and she points to Bobby, with whom she's been involved in a contentious divorce ever since. He still owes her $3 million in alimony and interest but professes near poverty. This week, the now happily remarried Barbara will try to persuade Broward County Circuit Court Judge Linda Vitale to put her ex-husband in jail for contempt.

Her book, however, isn't about the divorce. It's about the case she's spent years and nearly a quarter of a million dollars trying to solve. It begins some 27 years ago at a Miami boat show, but the ending has yet to come.

When Bobby Gordon first laid his eyes on Barbara, he was already a millionaire. And at age 37, the short, bearded, New York native was just getting started. Bobby was a classic workaholic, a man who routinely drove to his business in the middle of the night, usually about 3 a.m., and didn't make it home until dinnertime. He made credit cards for banks, and his corporation, the Continental Plastic Card Co., was about to take off. Soon, he'd have his own building in Coral Springs and some 120 employees. Bobby, who started the business in 1972 in his home, basically made enough money to do anything he wanted. And on one sunny day in 1977, he decided to attend a boat show. That's where he saw her.

The reason for Bobby's relentless attraction to Barbara isn't one of this story's many mysteries. She was a pretty and petite 22-year-old blond with a bombshell body. And her future husband saw plenty of it at the show: She was modeling and wearing a revealing bikini to help attract attention. Bobby, 15 years Barbara's senior and married at the time, asked her out immediately. She was used to the advances of men during modeling jobs, but he was particularly persistent. "Bobby had a thing for blonds," she recalls. "A lot of men did, but this one wouldn't leave."

He asked her out to a bar. She told him she didn't drink, so he proposed a coffee shop. They met the next day. "I got to know him, and I thought he was a nice guy," she says. "He seemed really down to earth. Then I found out he was married, so I backed off a bit. But he would keep in touch, and then he offered me a job."