Tommy Zeigler case refers to the murders of four people in Winter Garden, Florida on December 24, 1975, in which thirty-year-old Tommy Zeigler was charged for the quadruple murder of his wife, her parents, and another man at his family owned furniture store. He was tried, and convicted on July 2, 1976. Zeigler was sentenced to death for two of the murders, in addition to life imprisonment.
On July 2, 1976, thirty-year-old Tommy Zeigler (born July 25, 1945)was convicted of the quadruple murder of his wife, Eunice Zeigler, and her parents, Perry and Virginia Edwards, as well as a customer named Charlie Mays at his furniture store in Winter Garden, Florida on December 24, 1975. Zeigler, who was wounded by a gunshot to his abdomen, and charged while in a hospital days after the murders, was given the death penalty for the murders of his wife and Mays, and life imprisonment for the murders of his wife's parents. According to the prosecution, Zeigler's motive for the murders was two life insurance policies of $500,000 in total, which were taken out on his wife months prior to the murders. The prosecution claimed that he shot himself in an attempt to make it look like Mays and two men named Edward Williams and Felton Thomas, who would both testify against Zeigler, were the perpetrators of a robbery that ended in the murders of Eunice Zeigler and her parents. Due to publicity, the trial was moved to Jacksonville, Florida.
Five guns were found at the scene; approximately 30 bullets had been fired inside the store. In addition, a metal crank was used to bludgeon Perry Edwards and Charlie Mays to death.Since the murders, Zeigler has maintained that he was a victim of a botched robbery attempt, and that Charlie Mays was involved. As recent as 2015, Zeigler believes that his brother-in-law, Perry Edwards, Jr., was the person that orchestrated the murders.
The case against Zeigler, and his trial, has been the subject of criticism by many, including civil rights activist Bianca Jagger, and a juror who voted to convict Zeigler.Among the criticized points was the judge who oversaw the trial, Maurice M. Paul; months prior to the murders, both Zeigler and Judge Paul testified in an unrelated case on opposing sides. Although the jury at Zeigler's trial recommended life imprisonment, Judge Paul instead sentenced Zeigler to death.
At Zeigler's trial, one of the key eyewitnesses for the prosecution, Felton Thomas, testified that on the night of the murders, he, Zeigler and Charlie Mays drove to an orange grove to fire some guns. The prosecution believed that this was a plan from Zeigler to get their fingerprints on the guns. In 2013, however, Felton Thomas recanted parts of his testimony.
In 2011, Zeigler's private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, located a new eyewitness named Robert Foster, who, on the night of the murders, attempted to rob a gas station across the street from the Zeigler Furniture Store. Don Frye, the lead investigator on the case, had lied about Foster, saying his name was a typographical error.
Zeigler was scheduled to be executed on October 22, 1982. However, the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville stayed the execution due to new evidence. Zeigler was then scheduled to be executed on May 20, 1986. The execution was stayed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal due to inadequate representation.In April 1988, Zeigler's death sentence was overturned. Zeigler was re-sentenced and again given the death penalty.
In 2005, Zeigler's request for a new trial was denied after DNA tests failed to conclude that Charlie Mays was the perpetrator.
Zeigler's case was denied bloodstain DNA analysis in 2013 and 2016.
In April 2017, Zeigler's case was denied Touch DNA analysis.
Zeigler's case was featured on television program, Unsolved Mysteries .Zeigler is still in prison. A documentary entitled "A Question of Innocence" was released in 2014 about Zeigler's case, and the death penalty in the United States.
In 1992, a book was released by Phillip Finch on Zeigler's case, entitled Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town.
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