Unusual Suspects, Part I | Bob Norman | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Unusual Suspects, Part I

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She jumped at the chance for a steady paycheck. Since moving to Florida in 1976 from her native Columbus, Ohio, she'd been a secretary and a model, and neither line of work seemed particularly dependable or lucrative. Then, in 1980, Bobby's wife, his second, divorced him. Bobby, who didn't return phone calls from New Times, explained the reason for the divorce during a telling interview with Coral Springs police on the day Rick and Jane died. "I got caught cheating," he said, laughing.

After the divorce, he immediately asked Barbara to marry him. Barbara entertained the idea but told him she was close to two friends from Columbus, Rick Weed and Jane Gosnell, who had both made the sojourn to South Florida. In a foreshadowing of the unconventional and rather complicated living arrangement to come, Barbara, Rick, Jane, and Andy, who was then a baby, lived in the same house in Margate. Rick's mother had put up the down payment on the house, and he and Barbara mutually owned it.

Jane, a tall, thin brunet, and Rick had struck up a relationship after she divorced Andy's father. This seemed a happy accident to Barbara; her best friends were in love.

"When I wanted to get involved with Barbara," Bobby told police, "I had to accept that Richard and Jane are part of her life... which I did, with no problem."

Rick, a bushy-haired and bearded man, was in many ways the anti-Bobby. Where Bobby was hard-driving, Rick seemed to perpetually take it easy. Where Bobby liked to take a drink, Rick preferred a toke. Where Bobby achieved incredible financial success, Rick relied mostly on the kindness of his mother. He had only one dream: to become a chess champion. Rick, who was by all accounts an extremely intelligent and thoughtful man, worked chess problems and played the game almost constantly on computers. He competed in chess tournaments and was ranked by the United States Chess Federation.

Bobby didn't play the game. The only thing that Bobby and Rick seemed to have in common was their penchant for women, which the former lured with money and the latter with charm. And both loved Barbara, though apparently in different ways.

After marrying in June 1981, Barbara and Bobby lived alone in a 7,500-square-foot home in Coral Springs that came with a tennis court and large pool. Bobby had a special, 2,000-square-foot bedroom built for them, complete with a remote-controlled skylight. He bought a Corvette for Barbara and gave her plenty of money to spend on anything she wanted.

Yet, amid the trappings of extravagant wealth, Barbara wasn't happy. "It got boring very quickly," she remembers. "I just sat in this big house all day. I needed something to do, so I hung out with Jane a lot."

Bobby, however, was more concerned about Rick, who he was convinced was having sex with his wife. Barbara insists to this day that she didn't, though she admits that, back in Columbus when she was 19, Rick took nude "cheesecake" photos of her. But that was just for fun. "Rick loved women," explains Barbara, who was six years younger than her friend. "And women were attracted to him. But there was nothing between us. It was like brother and sister."

She missed her friends so much that she decided to have them move into the marital home. Surprisingly, Bobby didn't resist. She now suspects he allowed it so he could keep a closer watch on Rick and have some control over him.

The new couple paid rent and stayed in the home's original master bedroom -- which was located on the opposite end of the house from Bobby and Barbara. Andy also had his own room, where he slept in a sleek, red, racing-car bed. All of them adored the boy, including Bobby, who put up a basketball hoop on the tennis court. Rick was like a father to Andy, coaching his basketball team and teaching him to read and write. Jane was also a loving mother, and Barbara served as a kind of second mom, a role she relished. Andy was, by all accounts, a happy, smart, and well-adjusted child.

The extended family often went to a large ranch that Bobby owned near Orlando and would have a wonderful time. Still, there was some jealousy on Bobby's part. In an ill-fated attempt to ease the tension, they decided to swap partners in a sexual foursome. Barbara says the group experiment was a failure: Jane wasn't attracted to Bobby, and she and Rick felt so wrong that it didn't work. She says they tried it only once, but Bobby told police they may have done it two or three times.

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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

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