Dexter Coffin III, an ex-con Palm Beach heir who allegedly forged the confession of a suspect in one of the area’s most famous murders, died quietly at home in West Palm Beach.
A former swindler who battled lifelong addictions to drugs and alcohol, Coffin passed away Aug. 11 at his residence in the Riverwalk of the Palm Beaches community.
He was 64.
His fourth wife, Joanne Coffin, is not returning calls for comment about the cause of death.
A staffer at Riverwalk confirmed that Coffin died and added that no service has been planned.
There’s been no obituary or announcement of the death, and neither police nor the medical examiner’s office have been involved.
A spokeswoman at the Riverview Cemetery in Charlottesville, Va., confirmed Coffin’s body is being shipped to the facility for Saturday burial.
“His family has always been embarrassed by him,” said a source close to Coffin who asked not to be named in this story. “They’re trying to keep his death a secret. He’s part of Palm Beach lore and they should bury him here.
“They’re having him buried in Charlottesville because he owned a business there for a few years.
“He was about 90 lbs when he died. He had a nurse at home. His body was just ravaged by alcohol and drugs.”
Big Money, Big Problems
With a taste for all things expensive and a keen eye for hotties, Coffin was a standout character at a time when Palm Beach was packed with colorful aristocrats.
The heir of the inventor of tea brewed in baggies, Coffin had trust funds totaling $19 million in the late ’60s.
His wealth, however, couldn’t shield him from trouble.
At 24, Coffin was convicted of stealing a yacht in Palm Beach.
Four years later, he became addicted to opiate cough pills. He was convicted of prescription fraud in connection with several incidents. In time, he was sentenced to 17 years in a Virginia prison.
But Coffin escaped briefly in 1986.
Escape in a Gold Lincoln
According to newspaper accounts, the silver-tongued Coffin was being transferred when he talked the two troopers guarding him into stopping in a fancy Sheraton for dinner.
After the lavish meal, Coffin was allowed to go to the bathroom.
He jumped out a window and fled — in Joanne’s gold Lincoln.
The law eventually caught up to Coffin, and Coffin spent his years in prison studying law books and acting as a jailhouse lawyer.
In 1978, Coffin became a star witness in the murder trial of Mark Herman, who was accused of the 1976 killing Palm Beach Town Council candidate and oil company big Richard Kreusler.
Coffin claimed he obtained Herman’s hand-written confession while the two of them were held at the Palm Beach County jail on unrelated charges.
Mainly on Coffin’s word, Herman was sentenced to 25 years.
Coffin later went back to his original claims that Herman told him he killed Kreusler by mistake.
Herman’s sentence was commuted in 1992.