n The Dixie Mafia hitman also was implicated in Margaret Sherry, a former councilwoman.

The Associated Press

BILOXI - John Elbert Ransom, a Dixie Mafia hitman who supplied the gun used to kill a Mississippi judge and his wife, died in February in his home state of Georgia.

Ransom died Feb. 4 and was buried Feb. 6 in Smyrna, Ga., according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ransom was 78.

"It was a real important case," said George Phillips, who was the U.S. attorney during the Sherry investigation and is now director of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

"He was old and it wasn't a surprise," Phillips told The Sun Herald.

The investigation spanned more than a decade, two federal conspiracy trials and a guilty plea in 1998 that wrapped up the case. Seven people went to prison.

Prosecutors initially thought Ransom was the triggerman in the murders of Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, former councilwoman Margaret Sherry, on Sept. 14, 1987 at their home. Later, they said he supplied the gun used in the murders to shooter Thomas Leslie Holcomb of Texas.

Ransom was released from federal prison in late 2003 at age 76 and returned to the Atlanta area. He had spent 12 years in jail serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for his role in the murder of the Sherrys. Ransom also served two years in a state prison on an unrelated manslaughter charge.

Ransom, Kirksey McCord Nix Jr., his girlfriend, Sheri LaRa Sharpe, and Mike Gillich Jr. were convicted in federal court during the first Sherry trial in 1991. Holcomb, former Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat, Nix and Sharpe were convicted in the second Sherry trial in 1997 for their roles in the murders.

From scam to murder

Prosecutors said the Sherrys were killed because Nix, who ran a scam from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, believed Vincent Sherry stole money from him.

Nix was serving life without parole for murder when he became a client of Halat, who was Sherry's law partner. Nix masterminded the conspiracy from prison. He used Halat's office as a legal cover and to deposit the money he made in the scams.

Nix and Ransom pulled off several crimes together, including participating in a shootout with Georgia police in 1970. Both were members of the Dixie Mafia, a ring of interlocking criminal groups that operated mostly in the South in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ransom, who has a partial wooden leg, was a career criminal, federal authorities said. His career began in 1943 and included 20 arrests for various crimes by the late 1980s.

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