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Kit Fernald, Penny Rosenthal, Anna Miller and Virginia Sanders. File photo.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 5 years ago

Lore: Fugitive Longboat resident made most-wanted list

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Do you really know your neighbor?

If you live on Longboat Key, you probably do.

But the Feb. 14, 1985, issue of the Longboat Observer reported that federal marshals raided a Village home searching for Judy McNelis who went under the alias Rachel McVoy.

McNelis, who escaped from a Valdosta, Ga.,-prison in 1983, was wanted on racketeering and drug-smuggling charges and was also sought in connection with the murder of a Palm Beach pilot, who was allegedly part of a drug-smuggling operation. Authorities said she used a hacksaw blade to saw her way out of jail.

McNelis was listed on the Marshal Services’ “most wanted list.” She and her family made their way to Cortez, then Longboat Key, where authorities believe they remained until January 1985.

She was later arrested and acquitted of murder charges, although she was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for drug trafficking.

Interesting fact: McNelis is the aunt of “Gossip Girl” actress Leighton Meester.

+ Key searched for man who would be King
The Feb. 18, 1999, issue of the Longboat Observer reported sightings of author Stephen King at Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Euphemia Haye and the Centre Shops.

In a past interview, King said that after he began wintering in Sarasota, he found a place on Longboat Key that looked OK. But Longboat turned out to be crowded, so he and his wife spent a winter in Naples and found it to be “a little-bit stuck up.”

Two years after the reported Longboat sightings, King found the place that he apparently determined was “It:” Casey Key.

+ Commission flashed cash for Sister Keys
You’ll find an array of flora and fauna on the 80-acre cluster of mangrove islands known as Sister Keys but here’s one thing you won’t find: development.

A Feb. 15, 1990, Longboat Key Town Commission decision to earmark funds for the purchase of the islands resulted in the town buying them for approximately $1 million more than two years later.

In 1989, activists Rusty Chinnis, Anna Miller and Virginia Sanders had formed the Sister Keys Conservancy in response to the latest plans to develop the islands. The group successfully advocated for the preservation of the undeveloped islands.

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