A Crime to Remember (2013–…): Season 1, Episode 3 - Judge, Jury, Executioner - full transcript

West Palm Beach, FL, 1955. Judge Curtis Chillingworth (58) and his wife (50's) say their goodbyes to friends at swank dinner party, step into their car and drive away. They are never seen again. When police start investigating they unravel a tale of corruption, moonshine and numbers-running that leaves Florida in shock.

In West Palm Beach,
Florida in 1955,

there was one thing you could
absolutely set your watch by,

and that was
Judge Curtis Chillingworth's

8:00 A.M. arrival
at the courthouse.

I worked for him for 15 years,

and I'd never, ever known him

to miss an appointment
or be late to court.

So that morning,
when 8:00 A.M. came and went,

and he hadn't arrived
and he hadn't telephoned,

I wasn't just worried.

I was terrified.

Hello, sheriff?

West Palm Beach, Florida

back in the years after the war
was a sleepy Southern town

compared to what it is today.

But even then, oceanfront land
wasn't dirt-cheap,

so it was mostly people from
the fancier side of the city

who could afford to keep
little beach cottages.

And that's where
the Judge and Marjorie

were supposed to be
that morning,

at their bungalow
just south of West Palm.

Judge Chillingworth?

Is anyone home?

The bedrooms,
the beds were unmade.

They were a mess, as if somebody
had gotten up and left them.

Judge Chillingworth's
and Mrs. Chillingworth's clothes

were on chairs,

as if they had taken them off

and gotten in pajamas
and went to bed.

And Judge Chillingworth's

wallet's on the bedside table
with money in it.

Mrs. Chillingworth's purse
is there with $40 in it,

so it wasn't a robbery.

Personal IDs, everything
that they would take with them

on the most casual of trips...

A trip to the store, anything
like that, is still there.

There's no indication whatsoever
that they would've left.

There's no indication
they took a walk on the beach,

or if they did take a walk on
the beach, where are they?

Could they have gone for a swim?

But the bathing suits are there,
as well.

Ryan, check the dining room.

Things look very neat.

The breakfast dishes are ready
to be loaded up with food,

but there's no...
they're not dirty.

And they don't know
what to think.


Ms. Chillingworth?

It's your parents, um...

No one's heard from them.

The kids, their own children,

who were at their other house
in West Palm Beach,

have not heard from them.

Okay, and then they went home?

Yes, they...
they said they were going home.

They went home.
They left with their car.

And we're doing
everything we can. Don't worry.

The Chillingworths had been at
Mr. and Mrs. James Owens' house

the night before
for a dinner party

to celebrate
Judge Chillingworth's

32nd year on the bench.

And the party went on
till about 10:00 or 10:30,

and he came home from there.

They set breakfast
dishes out for the next day.

Can I take my best girl
for a little spin

around the old dance floor?

This brings back memories!

People that knew
the Chillingworths

glow when they talk about
the couple.

The Judge and Mrs. Chillingworth

were one of
those gold-plated couples.

They were perfect together.

They'd known each
since they were children,

and got married right after
the war.

She'd tease him and call him

which is just a 50-cent word
for fussy.

They were very close and loving,

and worked well together
as a team.

And I think the Judge
loved that Marjorie knew

he wasn't always as serious
as he seemed.

Judge Chillingworth
was one of only three judges.

Chillingworth wasn't
just a judge.

He was almost local royalty.

His grandfather had been
a mayor.

His father had been a city
attorney and a big developer.

And in 1923,
he was the youngest judge ever

in Florida history to be
appointed to a circuit bench.

Judge Chillingworth
was only 26 years old

when he reached
that level of success,

but it wasn't just ambition or
family history that drove him.

I think he was one of those men
who genuinely loved the law.

Even so, he'd been on the bench
a long time,

and recently he'd been talking
about slowing down.

Their bedclothes are missing,

so they know that whatever
happened to the Chillingworths

happened after they had decided
to go to bed for the night.

Good night.

As they survey the area,

the sheriff's deputies
walk outside

and they find one
of the floodlights is broken.

Hey, sheriff.

You'd better come here
and take a look at this.

So they start looking around...

And they find something else.

They find some blood.

And they found
an empty spool of adhesive tape.

What do you think?

There was a stairway

leading from the beach house
to the beach,

and they went down,

and they walked towards the
beach to see what they could find.

They go down the stairs
to the sand,

and there's more blood spatter.

Sheriff Kirk!
Sheriff Kirk!

The only place
that you might find footprints

that would be identifiable would
be down where the sand was wet,

and they did find three sets
going into the water.

They find some marks
in the sand that indicate

a small boat came ashore

since the last tide change,

so that is one more thing
that scares them.

One of the first things
that they did is

they got
a bunch of them together

to go down and help
with the search.

It wasn't just the authorities
at the house.

It was Chillingworths' friends.

I called Sheriff Kirk
because I knew he wasn't just a lawman.

He was a friend, and he'd
do anything to find the Judge.

Hello, Sheriff Kirk.

How long your birds
been in the air?

They call, actually,
the Palm Beach Air Force Base.

And the commander of the base
and a local investigator

go up in a helicopter
searching for them.

What have we heard
from Coast Guard?

We haven't heard
anything yet, sir.

The Coast Guard was searching
for them, as well,

in case it was
a swimming accident.

They got to go further out.

Tell them to increase their
search to almost four miles.

They sent divers down,

and they really went quite
far out with those divers.

All anyone wanted was a sign,

anything that could help us
find them,

but one of the few little things
the sheriff did have to go on,

well, we were scared
to know what it meant.

So, they had blood samples

that they've taken
from these blood spatters.

It's not like today,

where a blood spatter
can give you

an enormous amount
of information,

that a DNA test can match it
directly to a person.

The only thing they can
really tell at the time,

in 1955, is blood type,

and the blood type matches
Mrs. Chillingworth.

Well, the next thing
the investigators did was to say,

"Okay, maybe they did leave
on a boat,"

but the cliché
"needle in a haystack,"

really comes into play here,

although it was
a needle in the ocean.

Even back then, a lot of people
in Florida had boats,

so are you going to search
every boat?

After all this massive search,

checking with other agencies,

having planes,
boats in the water,

even after a couple of days,
there is nothing

other than they believe

that they have been taken
from the house.

They're thinking kidnapping.

Somebody has taken
the Chillingworths.

They were gone,
vanished, just like that,

and there was no trail
to follow.

The only thing left was miles
and miles of deep, blue sea.

It had been over a week

since Judge Chillingworth
and his wife disappeared.

They left a dinner party
in the Judge's honor,

drove back to their beach house,

and then,
well, no one knew what.

Thank you for joining us today.

When the paper said
that the police found

Mrs. Chillingworth's blood
in the sand,

all of us at the courthouse,
the secretaries, the clerks,

even Judge Peel and Judge White,

we were just desperate to know
anything else

that could tell us
what happened.

Friends, government entities,

even the state eventually put up
large reward money in hopes

that somebody would have some
information that would lead to

the Chillingworths being found
alive or...

Knowing definitively whether
they were dead or not.

The investigating officers
rule was taken

by the abductors of
Judge and Mrs. Chillingworth.

It's believed that the abductors

dragged the Chillingworths
down these steps

and across the lawn.

That's the only story that's
really being covered at length,

so there's no one in the area

that is not familiar
with what's going on,

so anyone that might hear
something can call in a tip.

I have a case here
where a plumber and his wife

were both missing.

There were all kinds
of questions

and people streaming in and out
of the courthouse.

FBI agents from Miami even
came up to talk to Sheriff Kirk,

because one of their cases...

well, it sounded a lot like
what had happened to the Judge.

Just prior to the
Chillingworths' disappearance

there was another disappearance,
and it involved a couple.

Mr. Ferry was a plumber
who was going to testify

in a tax trial against reputed
mobster Albert Anastasia.

There's just enough similarity
between the two crimes

to make the investigators
looking for the Chillingworths

really take notice of
the disappearance of the Ferrys

from North Miami Beach.

Both could have been
connected to organized crime,

and might have even been
connected to the same matter,

so suspicions were high
that the two were related.

Well, that was just silly.

Anyone in town could've told you
that the Judge, our Judge,

wasn't involved
in any illegal activities,

so no one looked
any farther down that path.

They didn't vanish
into thin air,

so they must have disappeared
for a reason.

Well, what was that reason?

Mr. Pickett,
the court is aware

that you are abundantly familiar
with this process.

And they start questioning,

"Okay, who might have wanted
the judge dead?"

The People
of the State of Florida

have found you guilty
and proven the case.

He was one of only three judges
in this huge area,

so there were a lot of cases
where he ruled against people.

He sent people to jail.

During this time,
you will make every legal effort

to return the money
you have stolen

from the victims named
in the state's complaint.

I was used to it,
sitting in court,

seeing all those rulings,

but sometimes it would just be
the look in someone's eye,

and I'd be worried about what they
might want to do to the judge.

Judges have
a particular type of threat

that surrounds them
all the time,

and that is because judges have
tremendous power.

They can sentence a person

to spend the rest of their life
in jail.

They can take away
people's homes.

They can take away
people's land.

They can take away
people's children.

Judge Chillingworth was tough.

He wouldn't bend just because
doing so might smooth the way,

and it wasn't just
the lawbreakers.

He held everyone who came
into his court

to the same high ideals, too.

If you give the court
any further reason

to question your work,

I will have no alternative
but to report you to the bar.

Who would've had a grudge
against a judge?

The entire criminal world.

So, you have
a tremendous list of suspects.

You would start, probably,
with the most serious,

maybe even the most recent,

and then you'd have to wonder
about their families.

Are their families
involved in criminal activity?

And there was one family...
two brothers, actually.

Well, the judge had a pretty
tangled and strange history

with the Nelsons.

There was
one individual, Charles Nelson,

whom the judge had sentenced
to jail.

Charles Nelson's brother
was a guy named Trapper Nelson,

and he lived up on a river

at the North End
of Palm Beach County,

literally in the woods.

If it was a gator
that needed skinning

or something
that needed to be shot,

well, Trapper Nelson
was the kind of man

that you would go to
for those sorts of things.

Sheriff, what brings
you all the way out here?

I want to talk to you
about a few things.

What kind of things?

Well, when the Judge
disappeared, your name came up.

Palm Beach County was
a dichotomy of rich mansions

and stuffy gentry,

and, at the same time,
almost wild-west desperados.

Trapper Nelson was
one of those men

who was trying to get away
from civilization.

Staked out deep into
the Loxahatchee River Run,

and because I worked
for Judge Chillingworth,

I knew that Trapper
and the Judge

had some dealings in the past.

Keep going.

Both of them had been involved

with trying to buy
the same land,

and almost competing
for that same land.

Starting in the '30s,

with Chillingworth
it was even earlier,

so he grew up
in that atmosphere of,

"You buy land because it's going
to be a good investment,

and you sell it later on and you
make money, and you buy more land."

But Trapper Nelson was buying
the land to preserve it.

He didn't want it developed.

Land disputes can be
very personal.

They can get very emotional.

Anyone who was in that courtroom

when Trapper's brother was
sentenced could of told you...

He didn't exactly go quietly.

Mr. Nelson,

The People of the State of
Florida have found you guilty.

You shall be taken
from this room

to the state farm at Raiford,

where you will serve
a sentence at hard labor.

Just you wait, Judge.
You're gonna pay for this!

You mark my words,
I'm gonna kill you!

And it turns out,

Charles Nelson was also finally
in a position

to make good on that threat.

Charles Nelson had done
his prison time

and had recently gotten out
within six months

of the disappearance
of Judge Chillingworth.

In the week since the
Judge and Marjorie had gone missing,

all we'd wanted was an answer.

And now there were two men,
the Nelson brothers,

who looked like they both
had reasons

to want to hurt the Judge.

When the police
ultimately looked into

the relationship between Trapper
and Judge Chillingworth,

they did not discover anything
except a friendship.

Judge Chillingworth
wasn't just a public figure.

He was a hometown
West Palm boy, too,

and he had connections
with all kinds of people here.

And Judge Chillingworth
and Trapper

lived in totally
different worlds,

yet the two managed
to be friends,

which spoke
to Judge Chillingworth's ability

to move fluidly
through the community.

He was not a person who only
associated with the upper crust.

Is Charlie here?

They were asking Trapper, "Well,
do you know where Charles was,

and what he did?"

Both of us were jacklightin'
for gators in the marsh.

I keep a log book
for Fish and Game.

I can show you the hides
if you'd like.

And Trapper actually had
an alibi for him.

So, they eliminated
Charles Nelson, as well.

Weeks turned into months
turned into years,

and this judge and his wife,
these prominent people,

had just fallen off
the face of the earth.

So finally,
in order to settle the estate,

the family went and got them
officially declared dead,

but, of course,
there were no bodies.

The disappearance
of a judge is huge.

It's huge in the '50s.
It's huge in the '60s.

It's huge today.

Judges just don't disappear.

It scares people to the bone.

In 1955, when you had only
three judges in this huge area

and one of them's been kidnapped
or murdered,

along with his wife,

if somebody would do that,
how safe am I?

After two years, there are
still people in the community

who want to find who committed
this crime,

but there's just literally
nothing to go on.

It seems like
somebody got away with it.

But, then it happened.

Something came up
out of the ocean

that would lead us to the truth,

but right then, no one
knew that's where it was headed.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's
Office finds a body in a canal

west of West Palm Beach.

The Sheriff's Bureau sends down
an agent named Henry Lovern.

And I know what you're thinking,

but it wasn't the Judge.

It was just some nobody.

It was a body of a young man
named Lew Gene Harvey,

from Jacksonville, Florida.

So, just stay with me,
because believe it or not,

Lew Gene Harvey,
that poor dead man in the canal,

was the first step
down a windy path

to the truth
about the Chillingworths.

Lew Gene Harvey's wife
said that her husband

was having a business meeting,
and he was nervous about it.

The wife, perhaps because
that she knew that her husband

wasn't on his way
to an Eagle Scout meeting,

she decided to write down
the license plate

of the car
that he had stepped into.

The investigators run
the license plate,

and it comes back to a fellow
named Floyd "Lucky" Holzapfel,

who they knew very well.

In 1955, in West Palm Beach,

Floyd Holzapfel...
they called him "Lucky"...

was just about as bad a man
as you could find.

"Lucky" Holzapfel is
a crafty, dangerous thug.

His business is to bring in
money through gambling,

through moonshining,
through prostitution,

through loansharking.

Murder is just another facet
of his business.

Lucky, Lucky.

Bobby, Bobby.

Bobby Lincoln was a partner
of Floyd "Lucky" Holzapfel.

How's business?

Business is great.
It's about to get better.

Let's go separate some fools
from their dollars.

Lincoln was his liaison
to the black neighborhoods.

You got to remember back then,
everything was segregated.

A white man didn't go in

and run bolita games
in the black neighborhoods.

Let's get this game started.

Bolita is a corruption of
the Spanish word for "ticket,"

and it was literally
the lottery,

just like they have lottery now,

except it wasn't run
by the state.

It was illegal, and so it was
run by gangsters and criminals.



These are two of the
scariest, nastiest guys around.

Everybody out, out, out.

The police did everything
they could to shut them down,

but they were always
one step ahead.

And what's the best way
to stay one step ahead of the law?

Why, to have a man
on the inside, of course.

So, Detective Lovern needed
his own man on the inside,

and that's when he came across
Jim Yenzer,

a man who knew enough
about Lucky's business

to have a guilty conscience
and an urge to unburden himself.

And you know Lew Gene?

He's around.

Well, he's not around anymore.

You know anything about that?

Drinking with those guys,

I'm starting to hear about things
that I don't want to know about.

What kind of things?

I can't say for sure,

and I don't really know anything
at all,

but, look, Floyd, you know?

He might've said something
about Judge Chillingworth.

What'd he say?

There's a hole in the bottom
of the ocean

that nobody's found
the bottom of yet.

And there you have it.

Henry Lovern thought
he was investigating

a bootlegging murder,

and he stumbled onto
the Chillingworth case,

just like that.

Now, Henry Lovern is
focused on Lucky Holzapfel

and his connection to the
Chillingworths disappearance.

It's amazing how things happen.

It was a full five years

since the Judge and Mrs.
Chillingworth had vanished.

The police believed a local
gangster named Lucky Holzapfel

was behind it,

and they'd managed to convince

one of his former associates
to help them.


We're going to need specifics
on what happened that night,

all right?

Yenzer is working
with the authorities

to help trap Lucky Holzapfel.

The FDLE gets Yenzer
to lure lucky to a hotel room.

What Lucky didn't know is that

the authorities were going to be
in another room next door

with a reel-to-reel
tape recorder.

If you were in the room
with Yenzer,

you would have no indication
that anything's being recorded.

Microphone could be hidden
in a lamp

or at the edge of a painting,

but it's not like today where
things can be done wirelessly

with little...
this is a major operation.

They have wires
running through the walls

to the next hotel room,

where there were several
Florida Sheriff's Bureau agents

with giant recorders

that use the old
8-inch reel-to-reel tapes.

So, over the span of three days,

they knocked back
a lot of liquor

and Lucky did a lot of talking,

and they used 30 reels of tape.

You know what I done for him?

Do you have any idea
what I'd done for that man?

Who's he talking about?

You've done a lot,
but I don't know specif...

you have no idea.

Not everything.

A lot of things
nobody knows about.

You've said that to me before.
I don't know what you mean.

I know it must be important.

Peel owes me.

Judge Peel?

So, Lucky was talking
about a judge, all right,

but it wasn't
Judge Chillingworth.

It was another judge
in West Palm Beach...

Judge Joe Peel.

Judge Peel was
a West Palm Beach boy.

He's been born
in West Palm Beach.

He's served honorably
in World War II.

Came back from overseas
and went off to law school.

He was smooth.

He could talk you around.

He was a ladies man.

He was a man about town
in many different ways.

Well, according to my judgment,

and the great State of Florida,

looks like you gentlemen
have cleared all the hurdles,

and here is your bench warrant.

Judge Peel was
a municipal judge who handled

simple search warrants that come
through their arrest warrants,

minor, maybe traffic issues,
things like that.

Thanks again, Judge.

You gentleman take it easy.

All right.

Lincoln, 6:00 today,
you're gonna get yourself

two sheriff's deputies coming
inquiring about your business.

Judge Peel would
grant the warrant

for a raid of some sort,
say on a gambling operation.

Then, before the police could
execute the warrant,

Judge Peel would call ahead
and warn the people.

Those people paid Judge Peel so
they could get that phone call,

so they could be warned
in advance.

Everybody out, out, out.

When Judge Peel was making
those phone calls back in his chamber,

one of the people he was calling
was Bobby Lincoln.

Lucky, Lincoln, and Peel
were all into racketeering,

prostitution rings,
bolita numbers.

They were doing it all.

And the closer Yenzer
got to hearing Lucky's secret,

the closer he was to being a man
who knew too much.

You don't even know

where that Judge would be
without me.

I mean, I know there were things
that we did...

...We worked on.

What kind of stuff
have you done?

You remember,
that Judge, Chillingworth,

and his wife that disappeared
a couple years ago?

Lucky got pretty drunk
and his lips got pretty loose,

and pretty soon they had
the whole story.

Hours and hours passed,

and those men drank
and rambled and ranted,

and they started all over again,

and finally, Lucky Holzapfel
explained it all...

every awful,
nasty step of the way.

All right.
That's him.

Take a good look, gentlemen.

Days before the
disappearance of the Chillingworths,

Judge Peel
says to Lucky and Bobby,

"Boys, there's a man who's
trying to ruin our business,

and we've got to kill him."

They didn't know Chillingworth
at all.

Peel takes them over
to his house,

and he points out
what he looks like.

I want you to burn that face
into your memories.

But Judge Peel
had done a good job

hiding his dealings with
the West Palm criminal world.

if Judge Chillingworth

knew anything about it, Peel
would've already been in jail,

so it didn't make any sense.

Lucky went out
and bought a skiff,

and he paid for it with cash
from the bolita operation.

He had also bought
a second anchor,

and they passed a bottle
of whiskey between them...

And they chugged off
from the marina

and headed down the ocean.

They were going to take the boat
down to Manalapan

where they knew Chillingworth
would be.

They were surprised
that the wife was with him.

They thought only the Judge
would be at the cottage.

That wasn't part of the deal.
She wasn't supposed to be there.

Lucky was wearing a boat
captain's hat and a blue shirt.

Lincoln was hiding in the bushes

when the Chillingworths heard
the pounding on the door.


Excuse me, sir.
Sorry to disturb you.

My boat broke down.

I was wondering if I could
come in and use your phone.

Well, where did you dock
the boat?

Is there anybody else
in the house?

He wasn't doing
a very good job with the story,

so finally he just pulled out
a gun and he said to the Judge,

"This is a stick-up."

Except it wasn't a stick-up.

Bobby, get the light.

Bobby Lincoln smashes
the porch light.

He didn't want anybody to see
what's going on.

They wrap their hands
with adhesive tape,

and that's, of course,
where the empty spool shows up.


Holzapfel hits her,
and that's what caused the blood spatter.

It was Peel who
came up with this great idea

of dumping them in the ocean,
'cause he figured

no body, no conviction.

The boat was out in the open
ocean for almost an hour.

And by then the Chillingworths
must have known

how this was going to end.

So they weighed them down
with weights.

Judge Chillingworth says,
"Honey, I love you."

Marjorie says,
"I love you, too."

And now, you throw in the Judge,

and he's strong enough to kick
up, even with the weight,

and come up out of water,

so they're forced to strike him
with the butt of a shotgun.

It's that image
of the Chillingworths

sinking through the waters
of the Atlantic

that haunt Lincoln
and Lucky Holzapfel

the rest of their lives.

Hello, America!

Peel had arranged to be watching

"The $64,000 Question,"
the game show,

so he would have an alibi.

They call Judge Peel,

and they say, simply,
"The motor is fixed."

Now Peel knows his problems with
Judge Chillingworth are over.

And under it all,

the reason it all happened
was a tiny case,

and it had nothing
to do with gangsters.

If you give the court
any further reason

to question your work,

I will have no alternative
but to report you to the bar

and recommend that you
are no longer allowed

to practice law in this state.

It wasn't Peel's dealings with
those criminals and low-lifes.

Judge Chillingworth
had caught Peel

doing something
much worse in his eyes...

shoddy work as a lawyer.

The old man had reprimanded Peel
the first time in 1953,

two years before
the Judge's disappearance.

Is my meaning clear, sir?

Yes, Judge.

Two years later, Peel's
handling a divorce for a woman,

and he appears to be too lazy
to file the final paperwork,

and she ends up remarrying
and finds out she's a bigamist,

so she files a complaint.

Peel had done it again.

He was about to appear
before Judge Chillingworth

for his second breach of ethics.

Judge Chillingworth
was going to have a hearing.

It might've been the end of
Peel's legal career and judgeship.

If Judge Chillingworth
were to disbar Judge Peel,

he would lose his ability to run
his money-making operation.

You know, he drives a Cadillac,

he makes sure his wife has
the best clothes,

and he's got
a standard of living

that is higher
than it should be.

And the amazing thing
was, it was right there

on Judge Chillingworth's
calendar all along.

The date of the hearing
was June 15, 1955,

which, of course, is the day
Judge Chillingworth disappeared.

Blood running out of him,

as he sunk back down
into the ocean.

This is one of the first times

where an undercover conversation

is used to elicit and record
a confession.

This is the police!
Open the door!

You are under arrest.
Whoa, whoa...

You have the right
to remain silent.

Holzapfel is arrested
and then ultimately charged,

along with Bobby Lincoln...

And Peel, for the murder

of Judge Chillingworth
and his wife.

When I was a kid,
Joe Peel was like the boogeyman.

Someone comes into your house

and grabs you
and throws you in the ocean.

There's nothing
that would scare you worse.

On June 14th,

the day before
Judge Chillingworth and his wife

were taken from their home
in Manalapan,

the Judge had written a draft
of his resignation letter

to the governor of Florida.

He felt it was time to start
a new period in his life.

He and his wife wanted to spend
more time together.

To me, that is so sad.

It's a different time now.

We're so used to the Judge Peels
of the world,

men serving their own interests,
lying, and cheating,

that it's hard to remember

that it used to be men
like Judge Chillingworth

that we hoped for, and expected.

So, I guess we can say that time
marches on and we make progress,

but I know I wish we could have
some things back.

I wish some things
had never changed.