For those chronological chauvinists who think that the OJ trial set the standard for defense chicanery, prosecutorial malfeasance, lurid details, and an obviously guilty perp who walked, I have two words for you: Candy Mossler.
Early in the morning of June 29, 1964, Candy’s multimillionaire husband Jacques (24 years older than her) is found dead in his Key Biscayne, FL condo. Jacques has 39 knife wounds, as well as blunt force trauma to the head. Conveniently enough, Candy had gone—accompanied by four of her children—to a local hospital emergency room at 1:00 AM, seeking treatment for a severe migraine headache, and upon her return finds Jacques dead.
Apparently unhampered by the horror of the incident, to say nothing of grief, Candy quickly posits her theory of the crime. It seems that as a consequence of a respiratory illness Jacques suffered in 1962, he became homosexual, and the homicide must be a result of a gay lover’s rage.
The cops actually look into this angle, but soon abandon it in favor of a far more likely suspect: Melvin Lane Powers, son of Candy’s older sister. Powers had been more or less adopted by the Mosslers in 1961, while they were living in the Houston area. At the time, Powers was 20, but could have passed for a good deal older, given his large build and swarthy appearance. Aunt Candy was 42.
For his recuperation, Jacques traveled to Europe, and was spending more time at the Florida condo, to take advantage of the cleaner ocean air. With the big cat away, the mice did play, and Candy pursued an incestuous relationship with her young nephew back in Houston.
By the spring of 1963, Jacques found out about the affair, and kicked Powers out of the house, and out of the position he had in one of Jacques’ businesses. Powers uttered a menacing threat upon his exit. Jacques moved to Key Biscayne, Candy stayed in the Houston mansion, and Powers took an apartment in Houston. Divorce is not an option for either Mossler, based on the pre-nup.
The overkill nature of the homicide suggests an emotional or sexual connection between the offender and the victim, and suspicion falls on Mossler’s wife and her lover. On July 3rd, the very day of Jacques’ funeral, a warrant is issued for Powers, and the Texas Rangers arrest him at his business outside of Houston.
Circumstantial evidence includes a palm print from Powers in the Key Biscayne condo, and travel records showing Powers arriving in Miami just before the murder, and returning to Houston hours afterward. A rental car used by Powers—and provided by Candy—is identified as one that was spotted at the murder scene. Multiple fingerprints from Powers are in the car, along with traces of blood. Blood stains also appear on the trousers worn by Powers upon his return to Houston.
Candy hires big gun defense attorney Percy Foreman to take the case, and puts up her jewelry collection to support the $200,000 retainer he demands. Jacques then is paying for the defense of his accused murderer. Candy decides that things are getting a bit too hot, and blows town for medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
However, details begin to emerge in the media replete with photographic records of the lovers together, murder solicitations by the lovebirds, and even Powers’ assertion that he could get anything from Candy by performing oral sex on her. Awaiting what will be a joint trial, they are both out on bond, with Mel keeping it low key in Atlanta, and Candy doing her Southun belle act in Houston. Of course, even she can’t deny the affair anymore.
The trial begins on January 17, 1966 in Miami, and is covered by dozens of media outlets, many of whose reporters are overly taken with Candy and her transparently faux charms. The purple prose put forth by Paul Holmes of the Chicago Tribune is simply embarrassing.
“She is remarkable for her poise, her wealth, her tenacious hold on the vestiges of a varnished youth, and the bouncy, unquenchable optimism with which she cheerfully faces an ordeal that will surely tarnish her and could end in a one-way walk to Florida’s death chamber. She is remarkable for an outgoing disposition which makes it appear she seeks friends for friendship only and neither needs nor wants sympathy. She is remarkable for her gaiety, her ceaseless effervescence, and for an underlying, alert intelligence that is her ultimate armor.”
Foreman’s defense consists mostly of attacking the victim, and promising lurid details of his homosexuality, which never come. The prosecution has an excellent case against Powers, and a somewhat weaker one against Candy, although it does not take much imagination to conjure up a motive. Inexplicably, Candy’s quite incriminating diary as well as a letter to Candy from an incarcerated Powers are ruled inadmissible.
However, the prosecution puts a stake through the heart of its own case by parading a motley group of cons, who claim that they were solicited for the homicide. One of them, Billy Frank Mulvey, not only attests to the murder for hire, but also states that he shared a jail cell with Powers, who confessed the crime to him.
Astonishingly, the incredible coincidence whereby the would-be hit man would share a cell with the actual perp is not doubted by the prosecution. News accounts indicate that until this point, a conviction seems guaranteed.
Foreman calls no witnesses, but hangs his hat on criticizing the forensic evidence, and attacking Mulvey’s credibility. He is even challenged by Prosecutor Richard Gerstein on not delivering on his promise to prove Jacques’ homosexuality, but that backfires, amidst Foreman’s effective, if sophomoric technique of simply turning tables on all the prosecution’s points, while making precious few of his own.
Candy and her lover are found not guilty, and their affair ends a short time after the trial.
Candy consoles herself with a $33 million inheritance, while Powers goes through a number of financial boom and bust cycles. Neither is shunned by polite society. Candy marries a much younger man, who ends up with a mysterious disabling injury, and is later divorced by Candy. Candy OD’s in a Miami hotel room in October, 1976.
Some say it was guilt, others say she just took too many pain meds. Her net worth is estimated at well over $100 million.
Would this homicidal pair have been convicted given today’s forensics, and a case minus the ridiculous parade of essentially bribed felons? Probably, but it really doesn’t matter.