This blog was written by Florida murder mystery Author and former Pura Vida Divers General Manager Jeffrey “Hammerhead” Philips.
Spearman’s has a greater abundance of yellow, blue, black, and silver marine life than any other sunken barge in West Palm Beach and is also tied to a tale of murder-for-hire and a missing million dollars.
Robert Spearman loved snaring spiney lobsters and shooting Nassau groupers for dinner. In 1966, he opened a diving business named Little Fin and spent his weekends under the calm ocean. He learned that the big game fish preferred the larger boxy structures of artificial reefs to the smaller crevices formed by rocks and corals. Business expanded, Little Fin grew into Spearman Marine Construction, and Robert sank his first and only artificial reef. The large- lipped, heavy-bodied fish schooled to a new home.
In November 1985, Robert found his second wife, Anita, bludgeoned to death in her bedroom. Anita was the assistant city manager of West Palm Beach and well-liked by business associates and personal friends. Five months later, police arrested Robert and charged him with his wife’s murder. Days before the court proceedings started, Robert transferred close to a million dollars to his ex-wife to hold until the good citizens declared him innocent.
During the trial, the prosecutor showed that Robert Spearman answered a murder-for-hire ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine and enlisted two gunmen, one an owner of a strip-tease bar in Tennessee. The jury convicted Spearman and sentenced him to life in prison, plus twenty years at Zephyrhills Correctional Institute.
In the cool spring days on chain-gang duty, Spearman handed out hundred dollar bills to fellow inmates for information on how to break out of jail and get even with the prosecutor.
Finally, he devised a plan to charter a helicopter to fly into the grass compound, carrying two machine guns and four hand grenades, and snatch him free. On the day he presented the cash to his would-be-pilots, he was arrested by undercover agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Anita’s murderers were tried and convicted. Spearman’s cremated remains were scattered at sea. Anita’s children won a libel suit against Soldier of Fortune magazine for 12.4 million dollars for printing the ad. The magazine has stopped running such ads. The million dollars given to the ex-wife? She says Robert gave the money to her as a gift and refuses to return it to the State.
And the sunken barge? The rectangular structure rests on a rise in a sparse patch of sand and rocks. A row of rusted iron railings at the southern end has a circling school of grunts and snappers that at times block the view of the barge. Lobsters and morays peek out along the pitted base. And a goliath grouper roams the outside greeting divers before he slips inside and hides in the shadows…”
– Jeffrey “Hammerhead” Philips
Visit www.jeffreyphilips.com to see more of his work, or to purchase a copy of his murder mystery books!
Blog post featured on GoodReads.com on April 5, 2013. Click here to view the original post in its entirety.
Video of Spearman’s Barge dive site by Lazaro Ruda of TheLivingSea.com.