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Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town Hardcover – October 27, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (October 27, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679408614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679408611
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Winter Garden, Fla., although near Orlando, the home of Disney World, is a small southern community. In 1975 one of the largest businesses in town was the Ziegler furniture store, run by Tommy Ziegler with the aid of his parents, who had founded it. In that store on Christmas Eve, four persons were killed: Tommy's wife, his parents-in-law and a worker. Although wounded by a bullet to the abdomen, Tommy was arrested for the killings. He was convicted of the murders when the single juror who thought him innocent buckled under the pressure of being the lone holdout, according to Finch ( Sugarland ). And, although the jury recommended life imprisonment, the judge handed down a death sentence. Tommy has been on Death Row in Florida for 17 years. With extensive reference to courtroom testimony, Finch argues convincingly for Ziegler's innocence by suggesting that he interrupted a crime in progress at the store and was subsequently framed for the killings. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

On Christmas eve, 1975, in Wintergarten, Florida, Tommy Ziegler's wife Eunice, her parents, and a customer were murdered in Ziegler's furniture store. Ziegler himself was shot in the stomach but survived the wound. Two witnesses strongly implicated Ziegler in the murders, and a half million dollars in insurance on his wife seemed to provide a strong motive. The case against Ziegler seemed overwhelming, and, despite some confusing forensic evidence, he was convicted and sentenced to die. Numerous appeals delayed the execution, but, when this book was finished, his time appeared to be running out. Finch does a superb job of analyzing and attacking the prosecution's case, showing that it was riddled with errors, that the police investigation was botched, that the forensic evidence was inconclusive, and that the testimony provided by a key witness essentially proved Ziegler's innocence. But Finch is less successful at drawing a convincing picture of Ziegler himself. Whether or not one is totally convinced by Finch's closely reasoned arguments, he succeeds admirably in raising questions that need to be answered. Highly recommended for all popular collections.
- Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ksmkahn@bellatlantic.net Kenneth R. Kahn on April 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In 1975, Winter Garden, Florida was a small, one-horse migrant labor and truck stop town bypassed by the supposed prosperity brought to Central Florida by the Disney Company. Spared the rapicious raping of the Kissimmee-St Cloud area, with its swamp draining killing of animals, Winter Garden remained as it had been--a lower class white working community dependent on trucking and citrus for its existence.
Enter William Thomas Zeigler who, by the author's own description drove oldsmobiles and detested rock and roll music. Unknown to many residents, the Zeigler family wealth stood at just over one million dollars--a princely sum in the 1970s. The quiet, modest veneer of the Zeigler family was broken by the existence of sexual problems between Tommy and Eunice Zeigler. Two weeks before the murder of Eunice, the couple stopped having intercourse with Eunice threatening to go to a fertility specialist in Orlando. Rumors abounded that Tommy was homosexual and a member of a sex ring of important local men. The author points out that Zeigler commited two unforgiveable crimes. One, he helped a black man retain a liquor license in the face of local and state opposition. Two, he helped break up a loan sharking ring manned by members of the Orange County (Orlando) Sherrif's Department. Later that year, the Sherrif, Dave Starr, resigned under pressure and his chief deputy, Leigh MacEachern, wne to jail convicted of charges of official corruption.
Finch outlines in great detail the malfeasance of police and prosecutors. First, sherrif's deputies trampled evidence at the crime scene. Later, judges and FBI authorities joined in to complete a fait accompli ensuring the swift journey of Mr. Zeigler to Florida's death row, where he remains to this day.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. S. Lambert on September 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A true-crime account involving the brutal murders of a wife, her parents, and a by-stander, this book could also fall into the cold case category as unsolved. The convicted, William Thomas Zeigler, is presently on death row, appeals exhausted, but still hoping for justice. Through the years he has had a large number of supporters, legal, forensic, and others interested in his appalling situation who believe he should be exonerated. The reader will be shocked at the magnitude of the crime, the investigation(s), and the astonishing conclusions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
That Southern justice can be an oxymoron is no surprise. But this book lays out in stunning detail how the system can close ranks to create an impenetrable thicket of corruption. It methodically deconstructs the state's case to reveal a disturbing array of official misinformation, mistakes and misconduct. The case is no less pertinent today, almost 30 years later, for the defendant still resides on death row. Perhaps the most stunning aspect is that the case has never been successfully appealed as it wended its way North through Federal courts. One suspects that the trial of a wealthy white businessman who killed his wife and three bystanders for insurance hardly makes even the most strident card-carrying ACLU member's heart race. Indeed, a drug dealer who murdered a policeman has more success in the courtroom - overturning a case on nearly identical grounds under which the defendant's is not. How did he find himself in the Kafkaesque struggle? He broke perhaps the highest law of the deep South one year earlier by coming to the defense of a black man. The guilt in this frightening indictment of our legal process does not end with the defendant: It does not even begin there. Unfortunately, however, neither does it end with the original perpetrators of the crime. If you liked "The Thin Blue Lie", you will love this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Janice Skaggs on September 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever stopped to think that cases such as Tommy's, whose innocence I believe in, the person or persons that committed a murder are still free to kill again?

After being involved in a case of someone I care about and having the police, prosecutors, and the judge betray that person, I started reading stories of other real life people who had also been betrayed by the police, prosecutors, judges, well... the whole "justice" system. One of the first books I read was "Fatal Flaw". After reading this book, with my heart breaking for Tommy and his mother, I contacted Tommy. He became a very dear friend of mine, as did his precious mother. Tommy has lost both his father and his mother while being in prison. I cannot think of a more hurtful thing in the world than to be in prison, an innocent person, and to lose someone you love. Not to mention Tommy's wife having been murdered, and not by him.

This book is the most wonderful book about the way the lack of justice is allowed in our country. It is easy to read, easy to follow and understand. Phillip Finch is a wonderful author who did not go into the telling of this story because he believed in Tommy's innocence. Because of his ability to do research and his honesty, he had to come to the conclusion that Tommy is innocent. If you read this story, you will see why he and others thought Tommy could be guilty. You will think... wait! I thought he is suppose to be innocent. Keep reading.

You might also think on this while reading. Other facts have come to light since the book was written to prove even further that Tommy is not just "not guilty" but totally innocent. Where are those who committed these murders? Not in prison! Does that worry you?
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