Murder in Palm Beach: Robert Brink
Sometimes crimes are committed in order to seek revenge or to silence someone who knows too much about an illegal operation within his own establishment. Rodger Kriger is a wealthy businessman who although cheats on his wife on a regular basis still owns and runs several restaurants until someone decided to take it all away from him including his life. The settings are many as they take place in bars that are dives, backrooms of restaurants and even dives that most would never set foot in. The customers are quite colorful and the prostitutes enjoy the fringe benefits and the local color, criminals and drug dealers would sell their souls to the devil for a light sentence even if it means perjuring themselves in court. The characters are hardcore and the customers you will meet in the bars are low class as one man and his partner have a huge following and scheme as you meet Mitt Hecher, karate teacher, owner of his own karate studio but his way of getting clients is anything but orthodox but for him it works. Entering many bars choosing a mark he intentionally picks a fight, insults the poor victim or customer and then winds up threatening the person if he does not sign up for several sessions to learn to defend himself. Matt loves his image and even more his scheme but sometimes even the best-played hands have to fold and not in the way he would have wanted. His studio is in West Palm Beach and to get him off the victim’s back he has to cough up 20 dollars as a binder you might say to begin his journey to learning self-defense.
Mitt is not on the top ten likable list of the police and although they often have to disband what he starts while he signs new clients sometimes things that are good can happen from something bad. One evening he spots two women one he hopes for his friend Davey and partner and the other Diane for himself. Things escalate and they form a partnership and eventually marry but not everyone lives happily ever after especially when prosecuting attorney has it in for you.
Roger Kriger finds out that two of his employees are running a bolito game in his backroom and making a fortune off the innocent victims who fall prey to thinking the odds are in their favor. It’s a lottery in which bets are made on an unpredictable number like a daily stock quotation. Things spiral out of control when Rodger Kriger and his wife Jan attend a party and arrive home thinking they would be off to bed. But, someone comes to their door and the next thing you know he is fatally shot and in his home. Kriger shot, dies in the hospital after surviving for almost two weeks. However, his death is tragic to his wife and six kids and even more to his girlfriend Stella. His wife knows about his actions and his shady deals but the police are determined to pin the murder on someone and get the case closed. Facts are sketchy in this case but the police could care less about the truth and Matt is the scapegoat and it’s pinned on him with the help of liars, criminals, drug dealers and other unreliable and definitely not credible witnesses. The trial you might say is more like a monkey trial and the end result is the jury to twenty- five years in prison sentences Mitt but they are not done yet. This is just the first leg there are appeals, reasonable doubt but the prosecutor will promise anything to anyone to get a conviction even get admissible in the court a forged confession not signed by Mitt but by someone else. The year is 1976 the month is January and the dinner party described proved to be Kriger’s last but when information comes to light someone comes forward and claims he was the real victim and that Mitt was aiming for him for not paying up for the drugs he sold him. State’s attorney, Bosworth and his corrupt prosecutor, Scraponia, find witnesses, inmates and anyone else to lie, cheat, forge and admit guilt on their part, overhearing confessions that never happened and managed to offer these people deals if they help them convict Mitt for life in prison and then the death penalty. High profile murder cases are what these two love and even though he is innocent some are wrongly accused and get locked away as we learn in the headlines everyday. The author brings to light just how corrupt some law enforcement officers are and how some will do anything for a conviction especially if a promotion in the picture. There are others who play a part and imagine having his wife, new son and his family in the courtroom when he’s convicted. The jury deliberations did not take long and we really do not know what they were thinking because their thoughts were not shared with the reader. Jailhouse lawyers are plentiful and one that Mitt befriends might turn on him in order to get time off from his own sentence. Twenty-five appeals that fail and the Florida Board of Clemency finally commutes his sentences to ten years of his time sentence served. Deceit, lies, blackmailing inmates, bribes for lesser sentences or time served, forgeries and a defense attorney who was supposed to take Mitt’s part but failed to even be there for the verdict sending an immediate red flag up.
Tom Palladin is a freelance journalist who believes in his innocence and along with Mitt and there others hope to exonerate him and bring the real killer to justice. Even getting another attorney, Susan Strickland to work with Tom and help Diane who is raising Pauley, their son alone but believes in Mitt’s innocence.
In prison, Mitt gets permission to start a karate workshop, and is popular with the other inmates. Furthermore, he writes a successful self-help book, “Practical Ways to Foil a Rape: The Preying Man Won’t Have a Prayer,” and organizes a prison tennis program, all the while fighting for his own release.
In spite of covering years of prison time, this book moves quickly and energetically, and Mitt Hecher is a character we can all back in a fight. Mitt Hecher was definitely not a model citizen and he did get into many different types of fights with people and even the police. One thing he did not do is murder anyone. Unfortunately, thanks to a corrupt judicial system and some prosecutors who are trying to make a name for them, it looks like they have convicted an innocent man. Being sent to jail for minor charges would be acceptable but to be convicted and sentenced for murder when the witnesses are all people who are in jail with the accused is really unbelievable.
Yes we are told to accept the verdict of the jury but how can we when they evidence they are given are lies?
More appeals, corrupt judges, police and criminals that are bought off and given lighter sentences and even money to claim they either saw something related to Kriger’s murder or heard Mitt say he killed him when in reality he had nothing to do with it at all. With his wife terminally ill and a young son hoping to make him proud things get tough for Pauley in school. Documents, reports, evidence not looked at, vital information discarded and two men in high places just looking to keep Mitt in jail for their own purposes but why?
A model prisoner and allowed to create a Karate Club to help other inmates defend themselves against those that are even more violent. Tennis courts built with the money from the inmates used for recreational purposes and possibly a way to burn off excess energy and steam. Through it all seeing Diane, his son and his mother on short visits that took them hours in order to get to the prison, Mitt tries to keep a stiff upper lip, his anger in check and yet the emotional upheaval and strain eventually does take its toll.
A criminal was identified but for a lighter sentence the killer gets away with the murder. Several men gave Mitt’s lawyer Seppish sworn statements taking back their allegations regarding Hecher and Seppish is about to ask another inmate named Crimshaw the same. When it comes in front of another judge the plain facts are that he was convicted mainly on the testimonies of convicted felons, as the prosecutor admitted and volunteered. Even one admitted that he lied and passed the polygraph test. Four inmates at the Palm Beach County jail show testified admitted that they lied and one was classified as a pathological liar so why with all of these facts if he still in jail. But, the rebuttals by Sullivan seemed to have the hear of the judge and the chief counsel for Hecher tried to show the incompetence of the lawyer that represented him.
The judge listened to Scraponia and the end result horrific again. Lies, cover-ups, corruption, payoffs, deceits, blindsided lawyers, judges who did not want to make waves and a man who could spend his life in prison for just being who he was. Despite his previous life selling drugs, scams to get business for his Karate classes Mitt Hecher changes his life and the end result you won’t believe. When he finally does get released with stipulations he and several others are determined to clear his name but at what price and will the succeed? The tragic ending for someone will bring tears to the reader’s eyes but the heroic efforts of Mitt and his team will make the reader stand up and applaud. A story created by author Robert Brink that could be ripped right out of the headlines today as the end we hope just might justify the means and the struggle for freedom is told in a sequence, methodically and well formulated way that the reader takes the journey along with Mitt from start to finish but where will they both wind up? t Murder In Palm Beach: Go there at your own risk that’s if Irma left anything to visit!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine