Unusual Suspects, Part 2

Editor's Note:The first part in the series told of the growing feud between millionaire Bobby Gordon and his wife Barbara's friends, Rick Weed and Jane Gosnell. All four lived in Bobby's home in Coral Springs until Barbara discovered the corpses of Rick and Jane in their bedroom.

As Barbara Gordon tearfully dialed 9-1-1 to report the deaths of her two best friends, there was already a Channel 4 news team at Coral Springs City Hall. WFOR-TV was there to do a light spot on the suburban town, but when the crew got wind of the possible double-homicide, it raced out to the Gordon house in the ritzy Running Brook Hills neighborhood. Murder in a millionaire's home was better than a puff piece any day.

In the early afternoon, a Channel 4 reporter, tiring of police silence, called the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office about the two deaths. But the M.E.'s office, which is supposed to be notified immediately of suspicious deaths, knew nothing about them. When then-M.E. Ronald Wright's office queried police on the telephone, a spokesperson denied there were any deaths at all.

It was just the first of several highly questionable -- and possibly illegal -- moves by police in the mysterious deaths of Rick Weed and Jane Gosnell. Even as his department denied the deaths, Coral Springs Det. Gerald Asher was studying the two naked corpses lying face-up in bed. The cop would later write in his report of abrasions on Jane's nose and chin, and that her panties had been cut off "by an unknown tool or device." Lying next to her was her 40-year-old fiancé, who had a crystalline white substance in the hair of his nose, beard, and chest. Rick also had "blood and foamy white material" coming from his mouth and "blood specks" on his chest, according to Asher's report.

A bullet had been fired from an unknown weapon through the headboard and was lodged in the wall behind it. A tied plastic garbage bag lay on the floor with detritus from the room inside, some of it covered in a liquid that seemed to match what had come from Rick's mouth. Missing from the room was the "device" used to cut the panties, the gun that fired the shot in the wall, and Rick's own handgun, which he kept on a nightstand for protection.

It wasn't until 7:43 p.m. -- more than eight hours after Barbara called 9-1-1 -- that police finally reported the deaths to the M.E.'s office. By that time, police knew that the white substance at the scene had tested negative for cocaine. In fact, there was no trace of the drug in the entire house, including in vomit found in the room. But Wright's autopsy the following morning found plenty in their bodies. While experts say overdose deaths from that drug are relatively rare, both Rick and Jane had enough in them to potentially kill a horse. Rick's blood showed 1.84 milligrams of cocaine per deciliter, while Jane's contained 1.54. To understand how excessive that is, consider that a 1989 study of 13 cocaine fatalities done by the National Institutes of Health found the victims had an average level of .36 milligrams per deciliter. Rick and Jane had four to five times that amount in their blood, and that didn't even count the cocaine that remained unabsorbed in their stomachs. Jane alone had two-thirds of a gram in her belly, which is more than an avid user might take in an entire night of partying. Wright determined that each of them had likely swallowed or snorted as much as 10 grams of pure cocaine each, an amount so ridiculously excessive as to be suicidal.

Their blood also tested positive for similar drug "cocktails" consisting of cocaine, the sleeping agent secobarbital, Valium, and, oddly, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Both Rick and Jane were known to occasionally take Valium and sleeping pills, but many friends, relatives, and even their long-term personal physicians have insisted they didn't use cocaine.

Despite the inconsistencies and apparent signs of foul play, both Wright and the Coral Springs police quickly ruled that their deaths were the result of simultaneous recreational cocaine overdoses, the first and only time such a determination has ever been made in Broward County. Authorities, however, have never come close to sufficiently explaining away the many inconsistencies, and some of their conclusions have smacked of deception and pure quackery. For instance, police repeatedly told the media that there was no trauma on the bodies, even though Jane's face had been injured. They also claimed there were "cobwebs" in the bullet hole, indicating it had been there prior to the deaths. But the Gordons' regular housekeeper, Mary Jones, has stated that there was no bullet hole in the room prior to the morning of the deaths.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman