Giant poster boards covered with mug shots, crime scene photos and yellowed newspaper articles overwhelm private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty’s tiny living room in Treasure Island.
Carty, a one-time Mrs. Florida contestant, has spent the past three years trying to figure out what happened one Christmas Eve 39 years ago when four people were murdered inside a furniture store in Central Florida. Tommy Zeigler, now 68, was convicted of killing his wife, his in-laws and a citrus crew foreman.
Zeigler’s case has always attracted skeptics: a former Orlando Sentinel newspaper editor; civil rights activist Bianca Jagger; a former chief deputy who worked on the original case and his brother. The case was the subject of a 1992 book called Fatal Flaw. None of their efforts resulted in a new trial for Zeigler.
Zeigler’s New York attorneys hope that Carty’s work is different. This past week, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The motion relies heavily on Carty’s assertion that Orange County sheriff’s detectives and prosecutors not only withheld evidence when they tried Zeigler back in 1976, but they also lied about key details. . . .
On this day, one of Carty’s neighbors, former Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice, watched a recent interview of the lead detective on Zeigler’s case.
When Rice, 69, who has no connection to the Zeigler case, was done listening, he clenched his hands together and frowned.
“If they execute Tommy Zeigler for this case,” he said, “I’ll have to be against the death penalty.”