On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1975, Eunice Zeigler, wife of the defendant, and Perry and Virginia Edwards, parents-in-law of the defendant, were shot to death in the W.T. Zeigler Furniture Store in Winter Garden, Florida. In addition, Charles Mays, Jr. was shot and subsequently beaten to death at the same location.
The medical examiner estimated times of death as within one hour of 8:00 p.m. that evening. William Thomas Zeigler Jr. was also found shot through the abdomen.
The state theorized that Zeigler murdered the four people in an apparent insurance fraud scheme. Just months before the murders, Zeigler had purchased a large amount of life insurance on his wife and had purchased two RG revolvers indirectly through Edward Williams, a long time family acquaintance.
Williams testified that Zeigler had inquired of him about obtaining a “hot gun.” Williams then arranged for another man, Frank Smith, to purchase the guns and deliver them to Zeigler.
At trial, Zeigler maintained that his wife and parents-in-law were killed during the course of a robbery and that Mays was involved but was killed by his confederates.