Tommy Zeigler is a quiet man, in control of his emotions, not wearing his heart on his sleeve and to most, he comes across as reserved. Very reserved. He used to be politically active behind the scenes in his hometown of Winter Garden, Florida. He had once led a successful drive to unseat a longtime town mayor!
His family ran a successful furniture store. With the cash involved and deposits to be made at the bank at the end of every day, Tommy kept at least five pistols around for protection. Despite the fact that the Zeigler family did well (they were worth around $1 million dollars in the 1970s) they lived a very modest life.
Tommy was happily married to Eunice Edwards and had a good relationship with his parents and in-laws.
Early in Finch’s book, you will read something that may seem unexplained behavior on Tommy’s part. You could even say: suspicious!
On Christmas Eve, he decided to shut off all the lights in the store. Usually there were four overhead lights on to showcase the furniture through the front windows, but this night, he told an employee to turn them off. The store is described in the book and by eye-witnesses as dark.
So why did Tommy do this? The overheads were always on and just on this one fateful night, not. It is explained much later in the book on page 222 of the book “Fatal Flaw.” Tommy told the employee to not turn on the four sets of overhead lights in the front windows. Tommy did not think that a lot of people would be window-shopping on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, the store only seemed dark from the street. Inside, a large Christmas wreath, two chain lamps, and a pole lamp with three light fixtures were left on. However, these lights went off as well when someone pulled the master switch lever on the outside of the building. After that, the store really was dark. And it is inside this dark furniture store that four dead people were found. More information on the book “Fatal Flaw’ can be found here.
Tommy remains on death row in relatively good spirits. He has lost his wife, in-laws, parents, and his wealth. The only thing he has left is his dignity. At times he is tired of fighting and states he will not fight another death warrant. He survived two already. It has been his wish ever since the guilty verdict was pronounced that someone in authority hears the whole case. Nowadays, that will include DNA evidence that was not available in 1975.
Barring some miracle, Tommy will most likely die on death row from natural causes. Unless… someone in authority with guts not just reads this, but also acts on it. That is wishful thinking, I know. The chance that this will happen will be very small… but I am going for it anyway.
My goal with the Zeigler series is to expose how you can be railroaded and how you can land on death row even if you were the intended victim of the crime. My hope is that the younger generation who did not grow up with Tommy’s case in the news, reads this. And, should they ever decide to become police officers, prosecutors, or judges, will never make these mistakes. But you have to wonder…these days it seems that the courtroom is just a place where cases are closed instead of the place where the truth is uncovered. More about that can be found in my post “In my humble opinion.”
To be continued.