Florida

The murder of Grady “Lobster Boy” Stiles

November 29, 1992
Gibsonton, Florida
Circus performer Grady “Lobster Boy” Stiles, Jr. is killed by a 17-year-old hitman hired by his wife and stepson

Stiles was born with ectrodactyly, a generic condition which fuses fingers and/or toes into a claw-like shape. Because of this, he joined his father, who also had ectrodactyly, and toured with a traveling circus as “Lobster Man” and “Lobster Boy.”

Stiles had been an abusive husband and father and wrestled with alcoholism. The alcoholism led to abuse until he and his first wife, Mary Teresa, divorced. Both subsequently married new spouses. Stiles filed for sole custody of their children which was granted when Mary Teresa, unaware of the proceedings, failed to appear.

While Stiles held custody of his children, his eldest daughter ran away from home due to abuse and moved in with her boyfriend. She was a minor and was required to ask her father for permission to marry, falsely claiming to be pregnant to ensure he would agree. Stiles agreed but shot his would-be son-in-law to death on the eve of the wedding. Stiles was found guilty of third-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years probation instead of a jail sentence as no prison was equipped to adequately provide for inmates with ectrodacyly.

Shortly after his conviction, he and Mary Teresa attempted to reconcile. At first, Stiles treated his family well but eventually began to drink again and resumed his abusive behaviors. Mary Teresa considered divorce, but feared Stiles would abuse her children in her absence. She also testified Stiles had threatened to kill her should she try to leave again. Instead, she and her son Harry Glenn Newman, Jr. paid 17-year-old Chris Wyant $1,500 to kill Stiles. The murder was carried out on the evening of November 29, 1992.

The murder-for-hire conspiracy quickly unraveled and all major parties were arrested, tried, and convicted. Wyant was sentenced to 27 years in prison and released in 2009. Newman, considered the mastermind behind the plot, was sentenced to life in prison; he died in 2014. Mary Teresa was sentenced to 12 years and released in 2000.

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