Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Real Housewives of South Florida [3]

Candy Mossler: June 30, 1964
Jacques and Candace Mossler had been married for fifteen glamorous years when he was found brutally murdered in his luxurious Key Biscayne apartment. Already immensely rich when they married, Jacques introduced Candy, a poor girl from rural Georgia, to a life of luxury and social eminence which she could never have dreamed of. Thanks to Jacques’ wealth and social connections, she became well known as a charming hostess; entertaining visiting film stars and other celebrities at their various homes in Miami and Texas. Dressed always in the latest fashions, with an hour-glass figure, platinum-blond hair and her rich southern drawl, she adapted to her new role as a socialite with a natural ease. Candy Mossler quickly became a prominent and glamorous figure in a wide range of civic, cultural and charitable causes.

But Candy, only 46, found her 69 year old husband too elderly for her tastes and for three years had been conducting a passionate love affair with her handsome 25 year old nephew, Mel Powers. Powers had been jailed as a swindler at a young age and upon his release from prison his mother suggested he contact her sister, his wealthy aunt, Candy Mossler. After meeting her tall, broad-shouldered nephew, Candy persuaded her husband to offer Mel a job in one of his companies and to let him stay in their Houston family mansion. With Jacques so often travelling on business and Candy and Mel alone in the house, it was not long before the household servants became aware of the couple’s unbridled and adulterous passion.

Candy was already so fond of shopping for jewelry and the latest haute-couture, that Jacques had joked she would “shop me to death.” She now took Mel with her on her shopping expeditions and, in return for his exertions in the bedroom, she showered him with expensive gifts. When they could not be together physically, they exchanged detailed descriptions of their more intimate desires and shared memories, in a series of letter and sweaty love notes.

Eventually Jacques discovered evidence of the affair and had Mel thrown out of the house. He also considered getting a divorce until his accountant explained that half of his vast fortune would go to his ex-wife. Finally, with all the different homes that they owned, Jacques decided it was possible for them to live separate lives while remaining married. If Candy had filed for divorce, she would be left with nothing.

At the time of the murder Candy’s alibi was watertight. She happened to be out driving with her children, mailing a letter at 1:00 in the morning. While driving, she developed so severe a migraine that she had to visit a hospital. When she and the children eventually returned home just before dawn, she found Jacques dead and told the police that it must have been a botched robbery. Her husband must have interrupted the burglars she suggested. The police did not agree; this was no casual murder they said, this was a crime of passion. Jacques body had received 39 stab wounds and his skull had been completely crushed by repeated blows from a blunt instrument. Normal burglars, however brutal, would normally restrict themselves to just a couple of fatal stabbings, not 39.

While searching the Key Biscayne apartment, investigators found Jacques’ journal in which he had written “If Mel and Candace don’t kill me first, I’ll have to kill them.” It did not take police long to identify Mel’s identity nor to discover that he’d flown into Miami on the day of the murder and flown back to Houston on the first flight out the following morning. In addition to intimate photographs and steamy love letters between nephew and aunt, police collected much more evidence including bloodstains, fingerprints and witnesses willing to testify that Mel had often threatened to kill his uncle-in-law. Both Mel and his aunt were charged with first degree murder and ordered to stand trial in courtroom 6-1 of the Dade County Courthouse.

Even fifty years later, the Mossler trial is still referred to as the ‘trial of the century’. The New York Times described it as the ‘Most spectacular homicide trial ever.’  It had everything to feed the public’s prurient appetites: wealth, celebrity, adultery, incest, steamy sex and murder. The Los Angeles Times decried the courtroom evidence as ‘detailed and lascivious’ but, nonetheless, shared the details with its readers.

Because the nature of the evidence was so salacious, nobody under the age of 21 was permitted in the courtroom. Starting at dawn, lines to enter the court house stretched around the block and people brought their own packed lunches rather than risk losing their seats during the lunch break.

Armed with Jacques’ money, Candy was able to hire Percy Foreman, the nation’s most famous and expensive criminal attorney. Foreman had defended more than 700 clients charged with homicide and had lost only one. Life magazine said Foreman wore suits that looked like "freshly-laundered potato sacks." Time magazine called him "the biggest, brashest, brightest criminal lawyer in the U.S." It was also said, according to Life magazine that “if you hire Percy, you’re guilty as hell!”

The trial lasted thirty-three days and the prosecution called 224 witnesses, each of whom added lurid details about the couple’s adulterous and extravagant relationship. Police produced evidence of the nephew’s brief visit to Miami on the night of the murder, bloodstains in his rental car, finger and palm-prints at the Key Biscayne murder scene. The prosecutor asked the jury to ask themselves why Candy had decided to get the children out of bed to mail a letter at one-o-clock in the morning. The jurors were shown Jacques’ journal entries and listened as the prosecutor read from a selection of Mel and Candy’s love notes. The government felt confident their case was watertight and the Dade State Attorney only needed an hour to present his final summary.

Percy Foreman did not call any witnesses and, when he rose to give his summary, he said he would make just a few remarks. In fact, he spoke for slightly less than five-hours, non-stop. He attacked everybody except the defendants. He attacked the police and prosecution, he attacked all the witnesses and he even attacked the victim, Jacques Mossler. The witnesses, he claimed, were bottom-feeding scum, liars and criminals. “They seined the cesspools of the penitentiaries and insane asylums for anybody who would testify. And they didn't come up with an edible fish."
There were hundreds of people, he argued, who wanted the vicious, crooked Mossler dead. Jacques Mossler was "a ruthless financier, a mastermind of a great financial empire, hated by thousands of people and a sexual deviate who slept with an ax at his bedside to protect him from his enemies.” Using an unidentified hair found on Mossler’s dead body, Foreman went on to argue that Mossier's sexual appetites—"transvestitism, homosexuality, voyeurism and every conceivable type of perversion, masochism, sadism,"—had caused his own death; he was murdered, said Foreman, by a slighted homosexual lover.

But the trial was all about Candy. She played to the crowd and she played to the all-male jury. Her elegant clothes, her winsome smile, her beauty all had an effect and at one point the judge was forced to reprimand her for lounging seductively across two chairs.
After four days of deliberations, the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty. Mel and Candy were free to leave and they stepped out of the courthouse waving to the waiting crowds who thronged Flagler street and who cheered as they drove away in a gold-plated, Cadillac convertible. Hosting a celebration dinner party later that night at their hotel, they invited Percy Foreman to join them as their guest of honor. He refused to attend and said, "I may represent these people but I don't have to associate with them,"

Together, Mel and Candy returned to Houston where Candy inherited all of Jacques’ fortune. She then proceeded to dump her nephew in favor of an even younger man, Barnett Garrison, whom she eventually married. This marriage was equally unfortunate. Less than a year after the wedding, Barnett, wearing a gun in his belt, suffered irreparable brain damage after falling forty-feet from his wife’s third-floor bedroom window to the concrete below.

Candy herself died many years later of an accidental drug overdose, alone in her suite at the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. She had been an addict for years. Perhaps the most memorable quote from the whole affair was when Candy held a spontaneous pre-trial press conference. “Mrs. Mossler” one of the reporters said. “You’ve been accused of committing adultery and of committing incest. You’re even accused of committing murder. How do you respond to that?”

“Well honey” she drawled, with a smile. “Nobody’s perfect.”

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