Q: When the new Palm Beach County Courthouse was completed, there was talk of naming it for a judge named Chillingworth. Who was he?
A: Remembering Palm Beach Circuit Judge Curtis Eugene Chillingworth only for the assassination of him and his wife Marjorie – still considered the local crime of the century – doesn’t do justice to Chillingworth’s feats. Or one could argue it is because Chillingworth was so prominent and revered that the murder was so horrific.
Chillingworth’s grandfather had moved to the region in 1893 and was a mayor of West Palm Beach and the sheriff of Dade County, which then included present-day Palm Beach County. His father had been the first city attorney. Curtis Chillingworth was the youngest circuit judge in Florida history, elected in 1920 at age 26. He would serve on the bench for 32 years.
On June 15, 1955, two henchmen hired for $2,500 by rival Judge Joseph Peel Jr., on whose corrupt ways Chillingworth was closing in, forced the Chillingworths from their seaside Manalapan bungalow, took them 2 miles out at sea, bundled them and threw them overboard. The bodies of Chillingworth, 58, and his wife, Marjorie, 47, were never found, but five years later, after one of the thugs bragged to friends, the law pounced on the three.
After convictions, Peel spent 21 years in prison; he was paroled in 1982 and died nine days later. Bobby Lincoln went to Chicago, became a black Muslim and later returned to Palm Beach County, where he still lives. Floyd “Lucky” Holzapfel died in prison in 1996, having failed to obtain parole.