Melvin Lane Powers, a flamboyant real estate developer who was acquitted of murdering his aunt's multimillionaire husband in a sensational 1966 trial, has died. He was 68.
Powers died Oct. 8 at his Houston home, his family announced. The cause of death has not been released.
He became a household name in the 1960s after he was accused with his aunt, Candace Mossler, of the stabbing and bludgeon slaying of her husband, 69-year-old Jacques Mossler, in a luxurious Key Biscayne, Fla., apartment.
The evidence was largely circumstantial and the details often lascivious.
Powers, then in his early 20s, was allegedly having an incestuous affair with his mother's sister, Candace, who was about 50 but claimed to be in her late 30s when the crime took place in 1964. The victim had been stabbed 39 times. Powers' fingerprints were found in the apartment and in a car that matched the description of one seen fleeing the scene.
The prosecution alleged that although the burly Powers had committed the crime, his aunt had masterminded the murder.
The star of the trial was lead defense lawyer Percy Foreman, "probably the biggest, brashest, brightest criminal lawyer in the U.S.," Time magazine reported in the days after the seven-week trial ended in Miami.
The defense strategy included painting Jacques Mossler as a ruthless businessman and sexual deviate with thousands of enemies who might have wanted him dead.
When the "not guilty" verdict was read, Powers kissed his aunt on the lips, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel reported in 1995. The couple left the courthouse in a gold Cadillac convertible as Candace blew kisses to the crowd.
They returned to the Mossler mansion outside Houston and openly lived together for a couple of years.
In 1971, Candace married an electrical contractor who was gravely injured a year later in a mysterious fall outside the mansion. They later divorced. When she died of an apparent overdose of medication in 1976, she was believed to be 62.
Powers, who never married, attended the funeral accompanied by "a shapely blonde," the Sun-Sentinel said in 1995.
Born in 1942 in Birmingham, Ala., Powers served in the Navy before moving to Pontiac, Mich.
When he arrived in Houston in 1961, he was on probation after spending 90 days in jail for swindling.
He moved in with the Mosslers and their four adopted children and soon started up an affair with his aunt, according to evidence presented at the trial.
Powers was working for his uncle as a mobile-home broker when Jacques discovered the affair in 1963, fired him and kicked him out of the mansion, according to press reports.
Immediately after the murder trial, Powers pledged to return to Houston and "pick up where I left off," the AP reported the day of the verdict.
He became a real estate developer and built a number of major structures in Houston. In 1979, he was said to be worth $200 million but had been in and out of bankruptcy several times.
Powers' survivors include his brother, Garrett.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun