The Trail Went Cold – Episode 16 – Tommy Zeigler (Part 2)

Christmas Eve 1975. Winter Garden, Florida. Police respond to call for help at the W.T. Zeigler Furniture Store and find one of the store’s owners, 30-year old Tommy Zeigler, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Inside, they discover that four people have been murdered: Tommy’s wife, Eunice Zeigler; her parents, Perry and Virginia Edwards; and a customer named Charlie Mays. Tommy claims he was attacked and shot by unknown intruders, but authorities believe Tommy committed the murders himself and that his gunshot wound is self-inflicted. Months later, he is put on trial and sentenced to death. In Part 1 of this convoluted story, we chronicled this horrific crime and Tommy Zeigler’s trial. Now, in Part 2, we shall examine the many shocking developments from the past four decades which have cast doubt on the conviction. Did Tommy Zeigler actually commit these murders or has an innocent man spent 40 years on death row?

For this episode, we have consulted with Tommy’s full time pro bono private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, who has spent the past five-and-a-half years uncovering new evidence in her attempts to get Tommy out of prison. Be sure to check out her website about the case, “Tommy Zeigler is Innocent”, along with her personal website about her investigation services, “Reunite People”. We thank Lynn-Marie for her assistance at helping us put together our most extensive episode of “The Trail Went Cold”.

Additional Reading:

“Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town” by Philip Finch

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

7 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 16 – Tommy Zeigler (Part 2)

  • I don’t think he committed the crimes and I can’t believe they got a conviction. On top of everything else you mentioned, how many criminals in the annals of crime have ever shot themselves through the gut, including vital organs, and let themselves bleed out for a while before calling the police, just to make it look like they were innocent? I bet very, very few indeed, if any at all.

  • What a terrible story of degeneracy, layer upon layer… The opinions of the state’s current attorney ( are the icing, they verge on being like those of the tobacco industry, hunkering down and colluding as long as it can with lives at stake.

    I don’t know enough to better understand why Tommy was hated enough to make this possible, but based on the nature of the “revenge” and gossip mentioned in the podcasts, there were many people who would have liked to have been Tommy, some of whom may have feared they were homosexual, or were uncomfortable about whatever their attraction was to him.

    I thought it was especially enlightening that he was accused of performing a “sex act” on a corpse (a claim that’s taken up a notch in court by the ridiculous psychiatric testimony/conjecture).

    It speaks of overwhelming contempt for the reality of the entire crime, and indifference to the reputation of the victims (collateral damage in the desired outcome) to falsely accuse someone of raping a corpse.

    I get a vibe of something like “if he thinks he’s so great, we’ll show him” from the various stories/testimonies, and of course the judge, who conjures up images of a mechanical bull. He must have been absolutely enraged with Tommy for months or years to have sealed his fate as he did.

    The statements about Tommy being sociopathic, including by the state’s attorney, are extremely glib. He assures the public that Tommy is guilty based on a look in his eyes he assures us he has personally seen. The state shouldn’t be making such a comment without a diagnosis, and the state’s handling of the case is itself essentially sociopathic.

    The attorney is another in the long line of indecent people wearing a mask of decency.

    What’s especially strange here is that given 40 years this hasn’t been corrected. It’s as if who he is (whatever he really is to everyone involved) has continued to work against him.

    • Thank you for your comment. The one thing that always sticks out to me about this case is that no one has ever been able to uncover any dirt on Tommy Zeigler. In the vast majority of cases where someone murders their spouse, it usually turns out they have some dark secrets or skeletons in their closet, but all they ever found on Tommy was gossip and unsubstantiated rumours. You can tell they got desperate when they start accusing him of raping a corpse. Tommy seemed to have the perfect life and zero reason to commit these crimes and I would not be surprised if that bothered some people and motivated them to bring him down.

      • For me the most interesting and most tragic aspect is why Tommy in particular? There have been cases similar to this (all those cases of railroaded black men, the disabled/incompetent and the insane who weren’t recognized as such) but I can’t think of anything like Tommy’s case, particularly considering the horrendous time involved.

        There seems to have been a “perfect storm” of character conflict which brought him down, where others would have never been charged.

        He was extremely successful, he appears to be a somewhat (or very) righteous and indignant character, which might grate some nerves, but he’s also quite soft, which is where the homosexuality rumors likely originate. Perhaps his support of black people reinforced the homosexuality aspect by implying he was on the fringes somehow, while also annoying all the racists. In the 70s, many more people regarded blacks and gays as lesser/worthless, or even not human. AIDS brought the idea that gays were chosen for death by God.

        Perhaps a part of the mess went something like this… That multi-millionaire Tommy, singing in the choir so nicely, his educated pianist wife, well I don’t think he’s so perfect, I don’t think that wife of his has such a great life either, because I think it’s quite likely he’s a “F”, probably has a “N” boyfriend with all he does for those blacks… Probably has a lot to hide… Driving around in a new car and owning all that property, meanwhile he gets a guy fired… (And later)… I heard he tried to have sex with the dead man… Well it wouldn’t surprise me… Dirty perverted meddling rich murdering Tommy, good riddance to him.”

        I lean to his great financial success at such a young age, suspected homosexuality and association with blacks as a “primer” for the judge’s incredible actions.

        I think his “crime” was to be envied and hated by many people, in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s like an episode out of a communist disaster where the person refusing to comply is hauled away by authorities. He was perceived as going against the community, and it was enough for the judge to move in and lynch him.

        • There’s also the inter-generational wealth aspect (even more extended envy/hatred), and that so many people knew of him (but not personally) by passing through the intersection opposite the KFC (where his name was up in lights).

        • Yes, I don’t believe the residents of Winter Garden came up with some grand conspiracy to frame him for murder, but once he became the centerpiece of a murder, certain people just developed serious tunnel town and Perry Edwards, Jr. took advantage of this by feeding them lies about his personal life to confirm what some of them might have already suspected. I’m sure they quite happy to see him go down and were content to ignore any evidence which surfaced to support his innocence.

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