'Jerry Springer' guest charged with murder

A guest on last Monday's US broadcast of the Jerry Springer Show was yesterday being held without bail in a Florida jail. He was charged with murder in connection with the death, just hours after the airing of the programme, of his ex-wife, who had also appeared on the show.

A guest on last Monday's US broadcast of the Jerry Springer Show was yesterday being held without bail in a Florida jail. He was charged with murder in connection with the death, just hours after the airing of the programme, of his ex-wife, who had also appeared on the show.

Ralf Panitz and Eleanor Panitz, his new bride of just a few months, had vanished on Monday evening when police reported finding the badly beaten body of his previous wife, Nancy Campbell-Panitz, in a home that the three had apparently been sharing in the resort of Sarasota.

The killing occurred on the same day viewers in the US watched as Ralf, Eleanor and Nancy traded vicious barbs on the set of Jerry Springer. The newlyweds accused Nancy, 52, of stalking them and of making their lives a misery. The confrontation ended with Nancy storming out.

The hunt for Ralf and Eleanor Panitz was in high gear all week until the couple apparently decided to surrender. They gave themselves up in Boston and flew late on Friday to Sarasota. Police believe they had been attempting to cross the Canadian border.

Mr Springer, whose show is produced in Chicago, has yet to comment on the killing, which has cast a shadow over his programme - though no culpability has been shown - and to others of the same trash-talk variety. It is reminiscent of a 1995 scandal at the Jenny Jones Show, when a guest owned up to having a gay crush on another guest only to be murdered by that man a few days later.

The Jenny Jones incident quickly went to the courts, and the programme and its producers ended up facing a fine of $25m for negligence.

In a statement late on Friday, Linda Shafra, a representative for Jerry Springer, said the producers were gratified the couple had turned themselves in. "We are continuing to co-operate with the Sarasota county sheriff's department."

Ms Campbell-Panitz obtained a restraining order against her former husband earlier on Monday, claiming he had beaten her repeatedly during their 15-month marriage, which ended in February 1999, and that last month he had chased her with a knife.

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