Even though it was unlikely he would ever again be a free man, Barry “The Bear” Hunwick of Plantation, Florida, still had a sense of humor when he stood in front of Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes before she passed sentence in Fort Lauderdale in 1999.
“I guess a furlough is out of the question,” he cracked when the judge asked if he wanted to say anything.
Holmes then handed him a second life sentence after he pleaded no contest to a state charge of murder in the 1982 killing of bail bondsman Richard Diego Messina, a convicted cocaine smuggler. Messina’s throat was slashed and his body was stuffed into the trunk of a stolen car.
Pittsburgh drug dealer
The Bear was already in federal detention after he pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire conspiracy earlier that year. In that case, he was arrested while planning to kill an undercover FBI agent posing as a drug dealer from Pittsburgh.
He could become eligible for parole in 2024.
Hunwick was set up by a former associate, Reid Robert Hawley, who became an undercover informant. The Bear bragged in recorded conversations that he once forced a man who owed him money for drugs to hold broken pieces of glass in his mouth while the 220-pound Hunwick punched him in the face.
He was also captured on video wearing his wife’s colorful oven mitts to avoid leaving fingerprints on a pistol he was carrying around his home.
As many as 300 murders
Hunwick gained international fame in 1982 when he was accused of heading a Broward County crew of freelance hit men and debt collectors that may have committed up to 300 murders.
The media feasted on his flair for the flamboyant. Hunwick used to cruise around Fort Lauderdale in a shiny Jaguar and visit the upscale boutique he bought his wife, a former Playboy model.
During one controversial search of Hunwick’s residence, investigators for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office discovered automatic weapons, homemade bombs and assassination “hit kits.”
He was also seen carrying a .22-caliber handgun with an Amphibian II silencer manufactured by AWC Systems Technology. The silencer was considered state-of-the-art at the time and was sold only to law enforcement, the military and intelligence agency clients.