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the Muscle murders
William Nack
May 18, 1998
When Bertil Fox, a former Mr. Universe, was arrested for double homicide last year, he became only the latest accused murderer among hard-core bodybuilders, whose subculture is a volatile mix of fragile egos, economic hardship and anabolic steroid abuse
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May 18, 1998

The Muscle Murders

When Bertil Fox, a former Mr. Universe, was arrested for double homicide last year, he became only the latest accused murderer among hard-core bodybuilders, whose subculture is a volatile mix of fragile egos, economic hardship and anabolic steroid abuse

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Fox testified that when he arrived at the shop, Leyoca greeted him, led him inside and told him she had given the gun to Violet "for safekeeping." Fox said that Violet approached him with the pouch in one hand and the gun in the other, held them above her head and said, teasingly, "These what you want? These what you want?" As Violet approached him, Fox said, she pushed him with the hand carrying the gun, and he grabbed it. In the struggle, he said, the gun went off and Leyoca was shot. (Curiously, she was found lying outside on the veranda, shot in the back.) As he continued to struggle with Violet, Fox said, the gun went off a second time, and she fell. He then fled in his car to Tross's office, he says, where he told Tross, "Leyoca and her mother just got shot." Tross, sitting behind Fox while he was testifying, shook his head at that. Tross had testified that Fox had said to him, "I just shot Leyoca and Violet." A witness who heard the conversation, Leon Issac, Tross's assistant, corroborated Tross's version.

Amanda Matthews, a seamstress who was working in a room adjoining the dress shop's reception room, testified that Leyoca went out to the veranda to greet Bertil, and he followed her back in. They were arguing, and Violet stepped between them. Bertil pushed Violet back into Leyoca. Matthews said she heard Violet exclaim three times, "Don't come in here with that!" Matthews then heard a scream and a gunshot. She ran into the bathroom and then heard two more shots. When she came out a few minutes later, Violet was sprawled on the shop floor and Leyoca was lying outside the front door.

Tross says Fox had told him the previous Saturday that he had found in his house a wire-transfer slip for $1,500, made out to Leyoca, from a man named Jason. Fox also said that Leyoca and Violet had laughed at him in the shop, and Violet had said he was "too old" for her 20-year-old daughter. (The wire transfer was not allowed in evidence in Fox's trial.)

Based on trial testimony other than Fox's and on interviews with Tross, the most plausible account of events that day is this: A spurned and jealous Fox discovered the wire transfer and confronted Leyoca with it in the dress shop. When Violet stepped between them, he pushed her back, drew his gun and shot her twice, once in the head. As Leyoca fled out the door, Fox shot her in the back. The prosecutor, Francis Bell, called it a crime of "jealousy and rage," but he failed to present evidence that it was either. He didn't elicit key testimony from Tross—for instance, that Tross had seen Fox with the gun pouch in the days leading up to the shootings.

Leyoca and Violet are buried in a single grave in Springfield Cemetery, on a hilltop with a view of Basseterre's blue harbor and of gleaming white cruise ships resting at anchor. It's a bright midafternoon in March, and Denise Williams, Violet's sister and Leyoca's aunt, is standing at the grave, with its dusty plastic flowers of red, purple and yellow. "Nobody in the family wants to come here," she says. "We are just trying to forget the day of the shootings. It was just terrible. Awful, awful, awful...."

Down below the cemetery, on Cayon Street, behind the thick prison door with its sliding peephole, Bertil Fox is still alive but missing his life, the barbells and the dumbbells that anchored him in the only safe harbor he has ever known. "I miss bodybuilding," he says. "I miss training. I miss the weights. I miss pumping iron. I miss that world. I miss being big! I miss the stage."

They'll all have to wait. The only stage he faces now is the four-by-four-foot courtroom box known as the dock.

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