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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By the end of 1985, things were deteriorating rapidly. Bobby continued to work extreme hours, and Barbara practically lived on Rick and Jane's side of the house. The husband, understandably, felt increasingly unliked and alienated. Though he accepted that Rick and his wife weren't lovers, he felt Barbara was giving him all her love. "As a male, I was a little jealous of Richard, you know, just receiving everything and getting everything by just being there all the time," he told police.

On top of it all, Bobby was financing his perceived tormentor and, as he told police, the "whole town" knew it. Bobby said he gave his wife a $3,000-a-week allowance (she claims it was half that) and suspected that Barbara doled out about $1,000 of it to Rick. He also hated the way his wife would lavish Rick with gifts, especially chess-related merchandise, on holidays.

Suspicious, Bobby marked the hundred-dollar bills that he gave Barbara, and sure enough, Rick would give them back to him as his rent payment. Barbara denies she ever gave Rick cash, though she admits to giving him plenty of gifts.

"I maybe hated what [Rick] represented," Bobby said in his 41-page sworn statement. "You work and everybody else works, and he'd share everything and just stay back and go in the pool all day and play tennis."

Bobby made clear that it wasn't the cash that bothered him; it was the principle. "I have money," he told detectives. "I have a huge net worth. I have millions and millions."

Barbara, meanwhile, discovered that Bobby was cheating on her and paying the women. She even found out that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old girl and her mother at the same time. Barbara says that in 1986, a frustrated and furious Bobby began to abuse her, hurting her on a fairly regular basis. When police asked her the nature of the violence, she said, "Bruises and knocking me around and trying to choke me and scare me and, you know, because he has a lot of bitterness inside of him about Rick and Jane."

Rick played something of the role of her protector, though he and Bobby only rarely had shouting matches and never got into a physical fight. In January 1988, Rick demanded that Bobby stop abusing Barbara. Bobby later told police that he and Rick had threatened each others' lives during the argument. About the same time, Barbara demanded a separation. She wanted another house where she could live in peace with her adopted family. Bobby, hoping the new arrangement would somehow save their marriage, put down a deposit on a $300,000 house nearby. The four of them were supposed to move away from Bobby on April 1, 1988, but the deal fell through.

Barbara didn't know it then, but her best friends in the world had only one month to live.

The worst fight of all occurred on April 17, 1988, just two weeks before the deaths. Barbara accompanied Bobby, who still loved her dearly, to his business with his mother, Lillian, and sister, Carol, who were visiting from New York. They began to argue, and Bobby exploded. "He threw me and slammed me to the floor and [had his] hands around the throat, and he wrenched my back and my shoulders and [inflicted] big bruises all over the place," she explained to police.

Bobby admitted to detectives: "I just threw her on the ground. I scraped her elbow and stuff, and boy did I feel bad... I went nuts."

Lillian screamed at Bobby to get off of Barbara. Then Bobby demanded that his mother and sister leave the room. They refused, but he insisted that he wouldn't hurt his wife, that he just wanted to talk to her. "Barbara was yelling, 'Don't leave! Don't leave!'" Bobby told police. "I said, 'Please, Mom, I will not harm this girl. '"

Much to Barbara's horror, they left her alone in the room with Bobby.

"He told me he put a contract out on my life and Rick and Jane's, but he's got it on hold, and he's got connections, and he knows people, and if I go home and tell anybody about what happened, I'm gonna live to regret it," she explained to the cops.

Later that day, after Barbara had her injuries treated at a doctor's office, she informed Rick and Jane of the death threat. Rick told her not to worry, that Bobby was all bark and no bite. When Jane saw the bruises on her friend that night, she confronted Bobby. "She called me a pussy and stuff like that," Bobby said in his sworn statement. "I felt she was right to do that, and I walked out... I'm like a lamb; I'm so sorry I did that. It took me a while to heal my mind. It took Barbara a while to heal also."

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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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