Oh, what a happy picture. At left, that’s millionaire Jacques Mossler; at far right, his blonde wife, Candy. They’re with court officials, formally adopting the offspring of Leonard Glenn, who murdered his wife and infant son. Tragically, it would not be the last time these kids would experience murder.
That photo was taken in August 1957. In January of that year, Glenn, who had a history of mental illness, shot his wife, who was pregnant, and stabbed their baby. He bundled the kids into the car and drove them all over the Chicago area until he crashed the car in the snow—and soon attracted the interest of police. After his arrest and commitment to a state hospital, the surviving children were all but orphaned until Mossler, a Houston, Texas businessman with a fortune worth $33 million (nearly $300 million in today’s dollars), stepped up. He’d read about the case, and had the means to make sure the four kids were able to stay together as a family rather than being made wards of the state. He already had four biological kids by his first wife, and was known to be a guy who simply loved helping children.
Mossler had come by his financial success through hard work, spurred on by an early urge to provide for his widowed mother. After his first marriage fizzled, Mossler met the also-newly-divorced Candace, or “Candy” as she was called, a glamorous platinum blonde who kept her real age a secret but was around 20 years younger than the man who would become her husband. They married in 1949, and as Mossler’s banking millions grew, the couple enjoyed the trappings of easy living, including a 28-room mansion in Houston and a posh vacation apartment in Key Biscayne, Florida.
But this moneyed pair was not destined for a happy ending. In 1961, Candy’s nephew, Melvin Powers, entered their lives. He was hoping for a leg up from his rich aunt and uncle after doing a short stint in jail for swindling. He was nearly 30 years younger than Candy, and he was her nephew by blood. But that didn’t stop the two from beginning a clandestine affair, which grew easier to hide once Mossler, who was in his late 60s, started spending more time in Florida for health reasons.
But Mossler hadn’t become a multi-millionaire by being a fool; though he initially agreed to help Powers with his business ventures and even allowed the younger man to move into the Houston house, he soon became aware of the forbidden relationship. Reports Florida-centric site Miamibeach411.com:
A year after Mel moved in, a servant informed Mossler of the affair. After reading Candy’s diary for confirmation, Mossler fired Powers from the financial firm and two officials ordered Powers to leave the mansion or face arrest. After much fuss, Powers left, claiming one day he would return, “As the owner of the mansion.” This aroused suspicion and fear within Mossler. He wrote in a personal memo “If Mel and Candace don’t kill me first, I’ll have to kill them!”
Those words proved eerily prophetic. After the big blow-up, the Mosslers formally separated, though neither dared file for divorce (according to their prenup, if Jacques filed, Candy would get half of his millions; if she filed, she’d get only $200,000). She was already getting $5,000 a week to keep up her lifestyle, more than enough to live comfortably. But the only way Candy, and by extension Powers, could get their mitts on the $33 million was in the event of Mossler’s death.
In late June 1964, Candy brought their four kids to visit Mossler in Florida. It was the last time the children would see the man who’d adopted them after their family nightmare. On June 30, his body was found in his Key Biscayne pad, clubbed over the head and wrapped in a blanket. He’d been stabbed 39 times.
Fortunately, or perhaps conveniently, Candy and the kids weren’t in the apartment between minight at 4:30am, when the murder occurred. She’d had a severe headache, she told police, and had taken the children with her to the emergency room in search of relief. It sounded like an awfully convenient alibi, which was something that Powers, who was spotted in nearby Miami the night of the killing, didn’t have.
He was arrested in Houston a few days after the murder. His fingerprints had been found at the scene, and in a bloodstained car belonging to Mossler which was found at the Miami airport. After police found Jacques Mossler’s worried diary entry, it became another piece of evidence, and Candy was also arrested and charged with murder.
The pair went on trial in early 1966. As the Los Angeles Times recalled, “The evidence was largely circumstantial and the details often lascivious.”
The New York Times dubbed it “one of the most spectacular homicide trials ever:”
The Mossler-Powers trial was so lurid that the judge admitted no spectator under 21. The star performer was the legendary lawyer Percy Foreman, who persuaded a jury to overlook clear motive, bloodstains, palm prints, fingerprints and love letters.
Mr. Foreman did it by poking holes in circumstantial evidence and impugning witnesses. He theorized that Mr. Mossler was killed by a jealous male lover.
The prosecution argued that Mossler was a devoted husband, at least until he realized his wife was being unfaithful, and was not, in fact, secretly gay. But the jury was convinced by Foreman, who Time magazine dubbed “probably the biggest, brashest, brightest criminal lawyer in the U.S.”
When the couple was found not guilty, Candy gleefully “kissed every juror.”
And there was more kissing to come, the New York Times noted:
The courtroom carnival ended with Mr. Powers and Mrs. Mossler kissing on the lips and driving off in a gold Cadillac.
No other suspects were ever pursued. Since Candy’s access to her late husband’s wealth was frozen at the time of the trials, she paid her defense team in material objects—ironically, gifts that Mossler had given her, including expensive fine jewelry.
Alas, despite all they’d been through, Candy and Mel couldn’t keep up their storybook-gone-wrong romance, splitting a year after the trial. Candy—who did inherit all those millions—went on to marry another much younger man who later suffered brain damage in a fall at her Houston manse; they eventually divorced.
Powers, who’d become a Houston real-estate developer with up-and-down success, attended her funeral with a mystery blonde. He never married. In 2010, he died in Houston at age 68 of undetermined causes.
Top three images: AP Photo; last image: AP Photo/Phil Sandlin