One, if not the most iconic landmark home in Manchester is the Tudor-style King house that overlooks the Jail Hill retaining wall on Highway 41, near City Hall.
As interesting as the historic near-6,400 sq. ft. home is the story of a Belle Meade heir and her murder by bomb blast in October 1985.
According to a news stories at the time, Melba Lapidus’ death started one more dispute into the inheritance of the estate.
The story goes back to David King leaving his native Russia as a teen to immigrate to the area and open a business in hardware in the early 1900s. It was a profitable business because his estate eventually reached a value of $8.4 million dollars.
By the 1980s, when King’s health began to falter, concerns arose about his mental state. In 1985, according to the report, Coffee County Chancellor John Rollings appointed Lapidus’ husband, Charles, to distribute the estate under the terms of the will that was written in 1985.
The late president-emeritus of Peoples Bank and Trust was once thought to be one of the richest men in Tennessee. He was known to the people of Manchester, the Tennessean reported, for walking around town in flannel.
Suspicion found its way onto Manchester restaurant owners who regularly served King and whom the family accused of taking advantage of the elderly man. In 1986, a federal suit alleges that King was sedated with drugs and alcohol and coerced into giving large sums of money to the Manchester couple.
A $12 million suit was filed in U.S. District Courts claims that King was abducted by the restaurateurs and taken to a law office for a new will to be drawn. Bombing victim Melba Lapidus was conservator of the King estate until her death in October of 1986. The suit, reports the Tennessean, asked for three times the losses it alleged came from the estate. Notably, the suit asserted that the Agnus Restaurant was purchased with a $30,000 loan from King.
The couple’s local attorney asserted that the allegations that the couple drugged King were absurd and said that the money that changed hands were gifts and loans.
The couple was ordered in 1988 to repay King $709,294 to King. King died at age 93 on Dec. 3, 1990. A year later, a Coffee County judge tossed out an undated, handwritten will that left most of the estate to the couple, opting to uphold two wills signed in 1985 that left Lapidus and siblings as heirs.
A mysterious bombing leads to cold case
As of 1997, the bombing was still unsolved, yet in Feb. 1, 1995 Charles Lapidus told the Times that the case is close to being solved. “The murderers will be brought to justice,” he said.
In July of 1986, Metro Nashville Police questioned, according to the Tennessean, William Moretti, of Antioch who was convicted in 1975 of bombing the home of a Coffee County District Attorney. He was not charged in the Lapidous case. The Manchester restaurant owners were questioned by a federal grand jury, but no charges were filed against them.
Law enforcement officers repeatedly told reporters that they felt that the conservatorship litigation was ultimately responsible for the bombing.
Lapidus was killed, police believed, when a package bomb exploded at her home in Belle Meade. The explosion was reported to have propelled debris 70 yards from the house. She had been shopping that morning and returned about 11:30 a.m. The ATF lab results on the bomb fragments were not disclosed.
Lapidus, 63, was the mother of two girls and a boy. The niece of King, she was said to have lived a life of helping others.