Mark Herman today
A big new development has just occurred in the murder case that my novel MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died is based on.
But before I delve into the exciting news, I want to extend a warm welcome and thanks to all of the new subscribers to my newsletter, as well as an expression of appreciation to all of the subscribers who heretofore have tolerated my occasional rants, some even penning their agreement with my positions.
Before I forget it, I also wanted to disclose another piece of good news: My long-delayed third novel, Blood on Their Hands, is due out in a couple of months.
Mark Herman, 1970s, with his wife
So what’s happening with Murder in Palm Beach? Well, it could get a boost from an event that occurred a week ago. I receive an email from the man who was wrongly convicted of the 1976 murder, on the posh island, that my book portrays. Attached was a document – a petition to the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, for a full pardon. The accused man was Mark Herman, a karate expert. He had served 15 years of a life sentence before it was commuted in February 1992, and he was freed.
Herman didn’t initiate the pardon request. It was made by the six adult children of the victim, Richard Kreusler, shotgunned in the family’s home on Jan. 16, 1976. All but one of the six had adamantly insisted all these years that Herman was guilty. The exception, Patti, contacted me five or six months ago. We met, and she told me she’d always doubted Herman was the killer, and wanted to learn who was. I left messages for two sources, neither of whom got back to me.
Richard Kreusler, 1970s
Governor Lawton Chiles
The petition for pardon contained a brief letter to the governor, indicating that the Kreusler progeny had extensively researched the case and concluded that Mark Herman did not commit the crime. They asked that he be pardoned. Patti contacted Herman to let him know, and he called Orlando attorney Sharon Stedman, who had successfully argued before Gov. Lawton Chiles (now deceased) and the Florida Cabinet for the commutation of the sentence. Stedman communicated with the Kreuslers, and they offered to pay her for writing the petition for a pardon to the governor. She did so, declining to accept payment.
In the petition, Stedman delivered a scathing rebuke of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, singling out Jack Scarola, the assistant attorney who successfully prosecuted the case against Herman, sending him to prison with a life sentence.
“According to several witnesses, all of whom were in the Palm Beach County jail at the time … numerous police agencies and the State Attorney’s office were pressuring the inmates to say they either say (sic, saw) the confession note being passed … or that Herman had confessed or discussed Mr. Kruesler’s murder with them,” Stedman wrote.
In a phone conversation with me, Stedman said that after her successful plea for Herman’s release from prison, Gov. Lawton Chiles warned her to stay away from a condo she owned in Palm Beach Gardens because there were death threats against her.
Mark Herman, center, in his karate days
Herman should be pardoned. He had been convicted not only of the murder, but of several other charges – much less serious crimes involving weapons ownership and drug possession – and sentenced to an inordinately harsh 26 years in prison for those. He’d been a hell raiser, and law enforcement and the courts were out to get him. But because of that sentence, he likely will not be entitled to monetary compensation.
What may, and definitely should, happen is his pardoning, and then a reopening of the case to seek the answer to who killed Richard Kreusler. Meanwhile, it’s in my book — in the thin guise of fiction.