HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) – Former Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat, who was released from prison in March for participating in a 1987 murder plot against a Mississippi Gulf Coast judge and his wife, is now working as handyman at a church in Hattiesburg.
The Rev. Tommy Conway, pastor at St. Thomas Catholic Church on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, tells The Sun Herald that Halat has been painting, doing yard work and performing any other chores requested.
“He’s doing very well,” Conway said. “He’s looking forward to getting home and being with his family sometime in the new year.”
The federal Bureau of Prisons website says the 70-year-old Halat is scheduled for release April 24.
Conway said Halat, a Catholic, does not seem angry about his time in prison.
“I don’t get that sense from him at all,” Conway said. “He comes to church every Sunday and celebrates with us. I haven’t found anger to be there. I find his mental disposition to be very much at peace, and that’s all looking forward to being home with his family.”
Circuit Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, Margaret, were slain in their Biloxi home on Sept. 14, 1987, in a plot involving a lawyer, a Louisiana prisoner and a strip club owner.
Halat and Vincent Sherry had been law partners, starting in 1981. Halat was elected mayor 1989 and lost a re-election bid in 1993.
Halat was convicted in 1997 of conspiracy to commit racketeering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In the 1980s, Bobby Joe Fabian, Dixie Mafia kingpin Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. and other inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola began running lonely-hearts telephone scams that mainly targeted homosexual men who sent thousands of dollars, thinking they were helping young men get out of minor scrapes with the law and join them.
Fabian testified that Nix ordered the Sherry slayings because Halat had convinced Nix that Vincent Sherry had stolen some of Nix’s proceeds the scam. Fabian estimated the scam may have collected $5 million.
According to court testimony, Halat knew about the murder plot against the Sherrys and failed to notify law enforcement. Former Biloxi striptease lounge owner Mike Gillich was the chief prosecution witness when Halat and three others were convicted in 1997.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Halat’s appeals in 2000.
Gillich, John Ransom, Nix and Nix’s girlfriend, Sheri LaRa Sharpe, were convicted in 1991 on a federal conspiracy charge. Gillich was released from prison in July 2000, after serving nine years of a 20-year sentence, and died of cancer in April 2012.
Fabian, who had congestive heart failure and other health problems, died in June in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.
Glen Joseph Cook, 71, a former police officer and strip-club owner, was released from prison this past week to a New Orleans halfway house. Cook was convicted for helping arrange the 1987 slayings.