February 2014 Executions

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 4, 2014 Delaware Heidi Marie Lee Ploof , 29 Gary Ploof stayed
Heidi and her husband, Gary W. Ploof, lived in Hartly, Delaware. Ploof primarily worked as an aircraft mechanic at Dover Air Force Base, while Heidi worked at a grocery store in Maryland. By late 2001, Ploof had begun an extramarital affair with Adrienne Hendricks, a co-worker at his part-time job. On November 1, 2001, the United States Air Force began providing employees with $100,000 in life insurance coverage for their spouses. The policies automatically became effective unless an employee opted out. After Ploof’s supervisor informed him of the program, Ploof told her he planned to opt out, but he took no action to do so. Sometime during the evening of November 3, 2001, Heidi left her job early after having an argument with her supervisor. She never returned home. Later that evening, Ploof reported that Heidi was missing. On the morning of November 4, Ploof called Hendricks and his friend Richard Jackson to tell them that Heidi was still missing. Hendricks, Jackson, and Jackson’s wife went to Ploof’s home to assist him. Some time after Jackson arrived, Ploof gave Jackson his.45-caliber automatic pistol and its case and asked Jackson to keep them for a while. That same morning, a passerby discovered Heidi’s body in the driver’s seat of a car in the parking lot of a Dover discount store. Heidi had been shot in the left ear and the bullet had passed through her right cheek. The police found a.357- caliber bullet in the car, along with a bullet jacket. The store’s security camera 4 recorded Heidi’s car entering the parking lot on the evening of November 3. The video footage showed a car driving into the lot, a man standing beside the driver’s side of the car after it was parked, and that same man walking away from the car toward the highway. When the police informed Ploof of Heidi’s death later that day, they noted that while he appeared to be crying, he did not shed any tears. The officers interviewed Ploof but allowed him to return home later that evening. The investigating officer also noted that Ploof ceased crying after he informed Ploof of the store’s security footage. On the evening of November 5, the police asked Ploof to return to the station for another interview. Before leaving for the interview, Ploof gave Jackson an empty gun case, which Jackson put in his vehicle. While the police were interviewing Ploof, another team of officers executed a search warrant on Ploof’s property. When the police searched the premises, they found a concealed.357 Ruger Security Six Revolver and.357 shell casings. Ploof had denied owning any guns. The police later matched the bullet jacket in the car to the Ruger. Once the police discovered the gun, they arrested Ploof for Heidi’s murder. After learning of Ploof’s arrest, Jackson called the police and turned over the.45-caliber pistol and gun cases he had been keeping for Ploof. While Ploof was incarcerated, investigators obtained two letters purporting to be from Heidi’s killer. These letters stated that they were written by a man who had been having an affair with Heidi, described details of Heidi’s death, and stated that Ploof was innocent. Officers found Ploof’s fingerprints on the letters. Ploof’s guilt-phase trial lasted nine days. The State presented testimony from police officers, experts, an eyewitness, and Heidi’s and Ploof’s friends and coworkers. Deborah Jefferson, who worked at the discount store, testified for the State. Jefferson testified that while taking a break in front of the store on the evening of November 3, she saw a woman driving a car into the parking lot with a man in the passenger seat. According to Jefferson, the woman drove the car to the side of the store, and the man walked back to the front of the store toward the highway roughly ten minutes later. Jefferson recognized Ploof’s clothing, and her description matched the image on the security camera’s footage. Dr. Judith Tobin, a state medical examiner, served as an expert witness for the State. She had performed Heidi’s autopsy and described for the jury how Heidi had died. Tobin described the bullet’s probable trajectory and opined that the markings on Heidi’s body indicated that the bullet had been fired six to seven inches away from Heidi’s left side. Because family members had told Tobin that Heidi was right-handed, Tobin opined that it would be extremely difficult for a right-handed person to shoot herself from her left side. She testified that women seldom kill themselves with firearms and that she thought Heidi had been murdered. Hendricks testified that she had been having an affair with Ploof before Heidi’s death. She stated that Ploof had told her that Heidi planned to move out of Ploof’s home and that she should move in on November 5. Hendricks saw no boxes or other signs that Heidi planned to leave when she visited Ploof on November 4, however. Although Ploof appeared to cry intermittently throughout that day, Hendricks also never saw any tears. Several witnesses testified that Ploof owned a Ruger and had recently told them that his money problems would soon be over. Ploof’s supervisor testified that she had told Ploof about the Air Force’s plan to offer life insurance for spouses. Jackson testified that his wife became upset after hearing Ploof make a phone call shortly after Heidi’s death to see if he could collect Heidi’s life insurance. Ploof’s counsel during his trial presented evidence she argued showed that Heidi had committed suicide. Ploof testified that Heidi was upset because a court had terminated her parental rights over a daughter from a previous relationship, and because the adoptive parent had recently warned her not to contact the child. Trial Counsel also presented testimony that Heidi had previously used drugs and was listed on Delaware’s Adult Abuse Registry because she had struck a resident at a nursing home. She had lost her job at the nursing home because of the incident. Also, Heidi had been rebuffed by a deliveryman after kissing him once and hugging him several times. Ploof stated that Heidi was unhappy with her job at the grocery store. On the night of her death, she was upset after arguing with her supervisor and wanted Ploof to meet her in Dover. Heidi met Ploof at a location near the Dover discount store where a passerby later found her body. According to Ploof, Heidi began crying about all her problems, especially the termination of her parental rights. After Heidi refused to come home, Ploof began walking away from the car and heard Heidi shoot herself. He stated that Heidi was ambidextrous and shot herself with her left hand. Upon seeing his wife commit suicide, Ploof decided to move Heidi’s body to the discount store’s parking lot so that the police would find her quickly. He claimed he did not report the suicide because he did not want people to know about the termination of Heidi’s parental rights and her other problems. Ploof hoped that the police would treat Heidi’s death as an unsolved murder. To accomplish this plan, he took the Ruger, ammunition, and gun case and put them in his truck. Then he got into the driver’s seat of Heidi’s car—with her body still in the same seat—and drove the car to the nearby discount store. He denied owning the Ruger. Ploof claimed he took it because he knew a gun dealer and hoped that he and the gun dealer could trace the gun’s origin to find out how Heidi acquired it. Ploof testified that he wrote the letters purporting to be from Heidi’s real killer because his cellmate had told him that the police would have to release him if he did so. He denied that he had serious money problems and denied ever owning a Ruger, though he admitted owning the.45-caliber pistol. The State presented rebuttal witnesses after the defense rested. Notably, Heidi’s left-handed brother testified that Heidi was right-handed and that he remembered because he had to adjust his fishing pole so that Heidi could use it. After deliberating for two hours, the jury found Ploof guilty of Murder in the First Degree. After the punishment phase, Ploof was sentenced to death.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 5, 2014 Texas Louis "Buddy" Musso, 59 Suzanne Basso executed
Louis "Buddy" Musso, murder victimIn July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis "Buddy" Musso first met either Suzanne Basso or her son, James "J.D." O’Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey. Buddy, though mentally retarded, lived independently, held a job at a local grocery store, and handled his own financial affairs. In June of 1998, Musso left New Jersey to live with Basso in Jacinto City, Texas. Shortly after Buddy moved in with Basso, Al Becker, Buddy’s Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Buddy. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with Basso, but Basso eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Buddy. Concerned about Buddy’s welfare, Becker sought assistance from various state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Buddy’s situation. In July of 1998, Basso unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Buddy’s representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Buddy, Basso was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Buddy’s "wife to be." After Buddy’s death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Buddy’s name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Buddy’s death from violent crimes. They also discovered a document entitled Buddy’s "Last Will and Testament," which purported to leave Buddy’s entire estate to Basso while "no one else was to get a cent." In the days leading up to his death, Buddy suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of Basso and her five codefendants. Basso would take Buddy to the apartment of codefendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice’s son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope’s fiancÚ), where Buddy was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours. Whenever Buddy attempted to get off the mat, O’Malley would beat or kick him. O’Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Buddy, and O’Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. Basso beat Buddy with a baseball bat on the buttocks, back, and groin area, and both she and Hope struck him with a belt and buckle. After hearing that Buddy had been "misbehaving" while she was away from the apartment, Basso, who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Buddy while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground. At one point, Buddy requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted, recognized the extent of Buddy’s injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O’Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Buddy in a solution of bleach and Pine Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body. Apparently, his killers were giving Buddy this kind of "bath" when he died. On the morning of August 28, 1999, Buddy’s body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Buddy’s clothes lacked any blood stains, and his only shoe was on the wrong foot, investigators believed that his body had been dressed after he died. The medical examiner reported an extraordinary number of injuries to Buddy’s body and was unable to count the "hundreds" of bruises that covered Buddy from head to toe. The palms of Buddy’s hands and the soles of his feet were bruised, while his back and buttocks showed numerous lash marks indicative of his having been whipped. Buddy’s severely blackened eyes resulted from a "hinge fracture" to his skull, which probably was caused by a blow to the back of the head. He had sustained broken bones in his nose, ribs, and throat. Marks on his back appeared to be cigarette burns, but may have been caused by a hot poker, and the medical examiner noted areas of skin abrasion possibly attributable to contact with a cleaning solution or scrub brush. The cause of death was believed to have been a skull fracture from an unknown object, which left a large, X-shaped laceration in Buddy’s scalp. On the evening before Buddy’s body was discovered, Basso began what evolved into a lengthy attempt to establish that Buddy had run away. She made several phone calls to people, including Becker, a niece of Buddy’s, and the local police, expressing concern about Buddy’s whereabouts. Basso claimed that Buddy probably had run away with a "little Mexican lady" that he had met at a laundromat and said that she was "getting kind of worried" about him. In a written statement to police, Basso later confessed to having driven Bernice Ahrens’s car, with Buddy’s body in the trunk, to the site where O’Malley, Singleton, and Craig Ahrens dumped the body. She also admitted driving the car to the dumpster where the others disposed of additional incriminating evidence, including bloody clothes and rubber gloves, which the police had found as a result of O’Malley’s confession. Basso was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for her participation in the killing of Louis Musso.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 5, 2014 Louisiana Wesley Alan Mercer, 6 Christopher Sepulvado stayed
Wesley Alan Mercer, murder victim Shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, 1992, six-year-old Wesley Alan Mercer died at DeSoto General Hospital. Dr. George McCormick, the forensic pathologist who examined the body one day after the child died, testified that the primary cause of death was failure of the heart and lungs due to severe third degree burns covering 58 percent of Wesley’s body and second degree burns covering 2 percent of the body. The autopsy further revealed the existence of substantial bruises on various parts of the body and multiple head wounds. In fact, Dr. Evans, the emergency room physician who attended to Wesley, testified that the child’s head wounds contributed to his death. Specifically, he testified that the burns and the blow to the head in combination caused the child’s death. According to Dr. Evans, the final cause of death was cardiac arrest. The DeSoto Parish sheriff’s investigation led to the arrest of Chris Sepulvado, Wesley’s stepfather, and Yvonne Mercer Sepulvado, his mother. Both were charged with first degree murder and tried separately. Sepulvado was convicted as charged and sentenced to death. Yvonne Sepulvado was tried for second degree murder and convicted of manslaughter. The testimony elicited during Yvonne Sepulvado’s trial revealed the following facts. Chris Sepulvado and Yvonne Sepulvado began dating in September of 1990. At that time, Yvonne Sepulvado was physically separated from her first husband. She and her four-year-old son lived with her parents. In January of 1991, Sepulvado and Yvonne Sepulvado and her child moved to Mansfield. They began living together despite objections from Yvonne Sepulvado’s family. Shortly thereafter, Sepulvado began to drink heavily and physically abuse Yvonne Sepulvado. On May 10, 1991, Yvonne Sepulvado left Sepulvado and returned to her parents’ house. Sometime between the end of May and the first of July 1991, Yvonne Sepulvado resumed living with Sepulvado, leaving her child in her mother’s care. However, Sepulvado "beat" her again and she left him a second time, returning to her parents’ house. After another brief stay with her parents, Yvonne Sepulvado returned to live with Sepulvado and, this time, took Wesley with her. Subsequently, Sepulvado began to abuse Wesley instead of Yvonne Sepulvado. According to Yvonne Sepulvado, the physical and verbal abuse that Sepulvado inflicted upon her child escalated gradually. Yvonne Sepulvado married Sepulvado on Thursday, March 5, 1992. The final episode of abuse against Wesley commenced the next day and ended in Wesley’s death on Sunday, March 8, 1992. On Friday, March 6, 1992, the child defecated in his pants three times, and each time he was severely punished and tortured. On the first occasion, Sepulvado tied one end of a rope around a ceiling fan and the other end around Wesley’s neck, and threatened to hang the child. He forced the child to stand on a chair, hold up one leg and count. Yvonne Sepulvado testified that her husband told her what he was doing and then immediately told her that he was kidding. The second time the child defecated in his pants, Sepulvado beat him with a belt. On the third occasion, Sepulvado shoved Wesley’s head into a toilet and flushed. Yvonne Sepulvado watched as this particular abuse occurred. Later that night, neither Yvonne Sepulvado nor her husband fed the child, and her husband forced him to sleep on the bedroom floor. The next day, Saturday, March 7, 1992, pursuant to Sepulvado’s instructions, Yvonne Sepulvado did not feed her child, despite the fact that Sepulvado was out of the house all day. Yvonne Sepulvado testified that after speaking with Wesley, she became "mad at him." She admitted to hitting him, pulling his hair, and striking him in the head several times. That evening, the child was still not given anything to eat and was forced to sleep on a small trunk. Yvonne Sepulvado made no attempt to communicate with her son or to comfort him later that evening when she passed by his room and saw him lying on the trunk. Finally, Yvonne Sepulvado testified that on the morning of Sunday, March 8, 1992, she saw Sepulvado kick Wesley from the bedroom into the bathroom. She claimed her husband threatened to put the child in hot water if he defecated in his pants again. According to Yvonne Sepulvado, Sepulvado made an identical threat on a prior occasion, but had let her check the water temperature to ensure it was not too hot. She claimed she thought Sepulvado was making an empty threat this time also. Yvonne Sepulvado heard Sepulvado again order Wesley to get into the tub and then heard the child say he had to use the bathroom. She recounted that her husband repeated the order one last time, and, the child replied, "No! No!" Then she heard a "bop, splash, and nothing." Yvonne Sepulvado further claimed that the child walked calmly from the bathroom to the bedroom, and even made chitchat with Sepulvado for a little while. She maintained that it was not until after she and Sepulvado persuaded Wesley to eat some food, he began to vomit, fall over, and lose consciousness. She and Sepulvado finally decided to take the child to the hospital some three hours later. The physicians who treated the boy at DeSoto General Hospital could not resuscitate him, and he died as a result of the severe abuse endured by him.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 12, 2014 Florida Samuel James Ryce, 9 Juan Chavez executed
Jimmy Ryce, murder victimOn the afternoon of September 11, 1995, nine-year-old Samuel James “Jimmy” Ryce disappeared after having been dropped off from his school bus at approximately 3:07 p.m. at a bus stop near his home in the Redlands, a rural area of south Miami Dade County. An extensive and well-publicized search of the area followed, but failed to locate the child. At that time, the defendant, Juan Carlos Chavez, was living in a trailer on property owned by Susan Scheinhaus. Chavez worked as a handyman for the Scheinhaus family, and was permitted to use their Ford pickup truck to run errands or do other work for the family. As part of his duties, Chavez frequently cared for horses owned by the Scheinhaus family, but housed on property owned by David Santana, which contained an avocado grove. There was also a trailer on that property, referred to throughout Chavez’s trial as the “avocado grove trailer” or the “horse-farm trailer.” In August or September of 1995, Mrs. Scheinhaus reported to the police several times that items (including a handgun and some jewelry) were missing from her residence. Although she suspected Chavez, she lacked evidence of his culpability. She testified at trial that, in November, she had decided to obtain the evidence required to pursue her claim. With the help of a locksmith, on December 5, 1995, while Chavez was away for the day, Mrs. Scheinhaus and her son, Edward Scheinhaus (“Ed”), entered the trailer located on her property which Chavez occupied. She found the handgun-which she later identified in court as a gun she had purchased in April of 1989 – in plain view on a counter opposite the trailer door. As Mrs. Scheinhaus continued to look inside the trailer, she discovered, in the closet area, a book bag which was partially open.   Looking inside the bag, she saw papers and books. The work appeared to be in a child’s handwriting, and she noticed the name “Jimmy Ryce.” She also observed this name on one of the books. When Mrs. Scheinhaus asked her son to look at the items, he also recognized the child’s name. As a result of this discovery, Mrs. Scheinhaus notified the FBI. When Chavez returned to the Scheinhaus residence at about 7:15 on the evening of December 6, armed FBI agents quickly surrounded and secured him. After being patted down, he agreed to go with Metro Dade Police officers, who were also present, to the station for questioning. Chavez’s Detention Chavez was involved in a questioning process that was punctuated by regular refreshment, food, bathroom breaks and a rest period, and interspersed with two outings returning to the Scheinhaus and Santana properties in southern Miami Dade County. Although Chavez was first brought to the police station on the night of December 6, he did not sleep until shortly after midnight on December 7. Detective Luis Estopinan, who was bilingual, conducted most of the questioning, although other officers also participated. Various police detectives, an FBI agent, Mrs. Scheinhaus and an independent interpreter all had opportunities to observe Chavez at various times throughout this period. Chavez was consistently described as alert and articulate during this time, and no one observed police detectives mistreating Chavez in any way throughout the period of questioning. He received repeated warnings and instructions in accordance with Miranda, and indicated that he fully understood them on four occasions during the period of interrogation. Over the course of the interrogation, and after having been repeatedly advised of his Miranda rights and knowingly waiving them, Chavez provided several versions of his involvement in Jimmy’s disappearance. As law enforcement officers engaged in a contemporaneous investigation of Chavez’s changing narratives, he agreed to accompany officers on two occasions to visit the horse farm property and the Scheinhaus property, where he showed them the location of the events he had recounted had transpired. On those occasions, Chavez was asked to reveal where the boy’s remains were located, to permit Jimmy’s family to have closure. After the physical evidence resulting from this contemporaneous investigation totally discredited each version of events which Chavez had initially proposed, Chavez agreed to tell the truth. However, Chavez explained that, before he would disclose the location of Jimmy’s remains, he wanted the officers to guarantee that he would receive the death penalty. Estopinan advised Chavez that he could not guarantee that the death penalty would be imposed. However, Chavez continued to talk, asserting that the events would not have happened had he not been sexually battered by a relative in Cuba. Estopinan told Chavez that he “felt that it was time for him to be truthful and tell us what really happened to Jimmy, and went back and began to ask him about Jimmy and where Jimmy was located. We wanted to find Jimmy.” A break followed this inquiry and then Chavez reiterated to Sergeant Jimenez the most recent account which he had given Estopinan. Chavez then went to the restroom for another break and, upon returning to the interview room, informed the officers that they were now going to hear the truth: “What do you want to know? I’ll tell you what happened to Jimmy Ryce.” Chavez proceeded to admit to Estopinan and Jimenez that he had abducted Jimmy at gunpoint, traveled to the horse ranch, and sexually assaulted Jimmy before finally shooting him. Estopinan explained that the officers would need details from Chavez, and requested permission to take a sworn statement. Chavez agreed to continue the questioning, and Estopinan and Jimenez “began to get details” about what had happened to Jimmy Ryce. At trial, Estopinan testified regarding the final version of Chavez’s statement. Chavez said that he had observed young children playing in water on his way home from Home Depot at approximately 3 p.m. Some of the boys were wearing just their underwear, and “as he saw the young boys wearing just their underwear, he took an interest in them.” After observing the children, Chavez drove off, but returned a short while later, because he “still had a mental picture of what happened, meaning that he saw the young boys in their underwear by the canal bank, and decided that he wanted to take another look.” Estopinan testified: "And while this is occurring, he was driving on the avenue, he sees a figure of a person, and then he realizes it was a young boy that he saw. At the same time he sees the young boy who later turns out to be Jimmy Ryce, again he’s thinking about the young boys who are at the canal bank. He said at this point he’s feeling something sexual and… that he has a mental picture in his mind of the young boys in the canal with their underwear and he’s also picturing Jimmy Ryce the young boy. As he’s driving the pickup truck in the opposite direction of Jimmy Ryce, he said at the time he had with him the Scheinhaus revolver, the Taurus,.38 caliber. And he said at this time Jimmy is walking on the left side of the road, and what he did is driving on the opposite side, he begins to drive on the opposite side of the traffic and drives and stops right in front of Jimmy Ryce causing him to stop. The minute that Jimmy stops, he stops the truck, he gets out of the truck with the gun in his hand and tells Jimmy at gunpoint, do you want to die? And Jimmy made a comment to him, no. And he told Jimmy in English to get inside the truck. And Jimmy responds by getting into the truck via the driver’s side door. Once Jimmy is inside the pickup truck, Jimmy removes his backpack and puts it between his legs and he Chavez gets into the truck with Jimmy, still holding the handgun. It’s at that point he takes the revolver and he places it underneath his lap and tells Jimmy to put his head down so Jimmy wouldn’t be seen by anyone. And at that point he tells me that he drives back to the horse ranch where the trailer was located. He told me that Jimmy left his backpack inside the pickup truck. Once they both exit the pickup truck, both him and Jimmy at his direction they go inside the trailer that’s located inside the horse ranch. He goes on to explain that once inside the trailer he tells Jimmy to sit down on the bed. Jimmy complies. And that he sits on a black office chair close to Jimmy by the entrance and he begins to talk to Jimmy, he notices that Jimmy is, he’s nervous and he’s scared and Jimmy begins sobbing. And while this is occurring, Jimmy began to ask him, why did you take me? And Chavez explains to him, well, why do you think I took you, things to that effect. He wants Jimmy to answer his own questions. He goes on to explain that at this point he feels like doing something sexual and that he tells Jimmy to remove his clothing. He said Jimmy complied by removing his shirt, his shorts, his sneakers and he wasn’t sure if Jimmy was wearing socks or not. And then Jimmy remains in his underwear only, his white underwear he believes. He goes on to tell me that at this point he gets up and he tells Jimmy to also go ahead and remove his underwear. Jimmy complies and removed his underwear. And then he tells Jimmy to lay on the bed in the trailer and Jimmy complies. Jimmy lays on his stomach on the bed. Chavez tells me that he went into the bathroom area of the trailer looking for something. And I asked him, what are you looking for. He told me I was looking for something like a lubricant. And then he goes into the bathroom and he finds a see through plastic container, he said, with some blue lettering on it. And then he took a sample of the contents of the container to see if it would burn, and when it didn’t, he came back to where Jimmy was and he placed this, the substance or the lubricant on to Jimmy’s rectum, he said, and as he was placing the lubricant on Jimmy’s rectum, Jimmy is asking what are you doing. And he mentioned to Jimmy that what do you think is going to happen, things to that effect. He unzipped his pants, he exposed his penis and he inserted his penis into Jimmy’s rectum. He told me right after he inserted his penis in Jimmy’s rectum, he again has a mental picture of the young boys in their underwear which he had seen at the canal and he said that he quickly ejaculated, and once he ejaculated inside Jimmy, he said he removed himself." Chavez said that he and Jimmy then dressed and left in the truck, indicating that he had intended to leave Jimmy in the area where he had picked him up. However, upon nearing the area where he had abducted Jimmy, Chavez noticed that police cars were present. Believing “that someone had reported Jimmy missing and they were looking for Jimmy,” Chavez kept Jimmy’s head down in the truck and returned to the horse farm. Estopinan testified regarding what transpired when Chavez and Jimmy returned to the horse farm: "He said once inside the trailer, Jimmy is trembling and crying. And Jimmy asked, what’s going to happen to me? Are you going to kill me? He noticed that Jimmy was very frightened. And he begins to speak to Jimmy in order to calm him down." Chavez told Estopinan that he tried to calm Jimmy down by asking him questions. He then explained how he killed Jimmy: "Well, the next thing Chavez mentions happened is he heard a helicopter fly over the horse ranch. It was his opinion he believed the helicopter belonged to the police, that the police were searching for Jimmy. When he heard the helicopter flying over him, he went ahead and held Jimmy close by to him so Jimmy wouldn’t go anywhere, and eventually he heard the chopper several times flying over him, and at one point he said he got up and began looking out the window to see if he could see the chopper, the helicopter that is. And while he was looking for the helicopter, Jimmy is still close to the front entrance of the trailer. He said that Jimmy made a dash for the door, Jimmy ran for the door trying to escape. He said that he tried to reach up to Jimmy, but he got tangled on the floor of the bathroom and at that point he said he took out the revolver belonging to Mrs. Scheinhaus, he pointed the handgun in the direction of Jimmy, fired one time hitting him. He said that Jimmy collapsed right by the door and collapsed to the right by the door inside the trailer. He said after he shot Jimmy, he came up to Jimmy, he turned Jimmy around and held Jimmy in his arms and Jimmy took one last breath, he expressed it, and he said that was the last thing Jimmy did." Chavez described that, to dispose of Jimmy’s body, he found a metal barrel inside the trailer at the horse farm, and placed Jimmy’s body inside the barrel. He transported the barrel containing the body from the horse farm to the Scheinhaus residence, where he removed the barrel and placed it in Chavez’s disabled van, which was parked in the stable area. Chavez removed Jimmy’s book bag from the pickup and carried it with him to his own trailer. That night, Chavez looked at some of the note pads inside Jimmy’s book bag. Chavez noticed blood on his own clothing and eventually destroyed the clothes. During the night and into the next morning, “all he could think about was what he was going to do with Jimmy’s body.” Two or three days later, Chavez attempted to use a backhoe on the Scheinhaus property to dig a hole in which to bury Jimmy, but the machine did not operate properly. Chavez remained concerned, particularly when he noticed that the lid of the barrel which contained Jimmy’s body had come off. Chavez pulled Jimmy’s body from the barrel onto a piece of plywood, and, from there, his remains fell to the ground. “And he said at that point he went ahead and began to dismember Jimmy’s body with the use of a tool.” Chavez described the tool he used to dismember Jimmy’s body, and even drew a picture of the implement. He explained that it took him a while to dismember Jimmy’s body, as he was becoming sick and vomiting. “But then he completes it and he places three of Jimmy’s parts into these three planters. And once he fills these planters with Jimmy’s remains, he goes ahead, goes into the stable area of the stable where the building is located and he locates some cement bags. With those cement bags he seals the tops of the planters with cement.” The oral interview concluded at 10:50 pm on December 8. While an interpreter and a stenographer were being obtained to record a formal statement, Chavez remained in the interview room, and did not further converse with Estopinan until the interpreter arrived. Then, at 11:45 pm, Chavez began to provide a formal statement. Estopinan, Sergeant Jimenez, and the court reporter were present as the statement was obtained. After some preliminary questions, Chavez was again advised of his Miranda rights. At this time, Chavez confirmed that he had voluntarily agreed to waive his first court appearance and that he had given the officers consent to search his property. When the statement was completed, each page of the statement was reviewed, and Chavez made any corrections he desired. He acknowledged in the statement that he was making the transcribed statement voluntarily;  that no one had threatened or coerced him into making the statement;  and that he had been treated well. Estopinan testified that, at the time he made his sworn statement, Chavez was “polite, cooperative and he was alert.” Marilu Balbis testified that she was the professional interpreter providing services during Chavez’s sworn statement. Ms. Balbis was an independent contractor who had been an interpreter and translator for twelve years. The confession was unusually long, and Ms. Balbis had the opportunity to closely observe Chavez’s demeanor. Chavez did not appear sleepy, and was alert. At no point did the detectives give Chavez any answers. Once the confession was finished, Ms. Balbis read each page, word by word, to Chavez to make sure that it was typed correctly. Chavez approved every page by initialing each page at the bottom. Ms. Balbis indicated that the police officers treated Chavez with courtesy, and that she did not observe them threaten or raise their voices toward Chavez. Officer Michael Byrd recovered the loaded handgun from Chavez’s trailer. Byrd also found a poster in Chavez’s trailer bearing the likeness of Jimmy Ryce, which he processed as evidence. A box of bullets containing live ammunition, and one spent shell casing, were also found in the trailer. Crime scene technician Elvey Melgarejo testified that, on December 8, 1995, he helped search and process a trailer on a horse/avocado farm. He searched the trailer and found “a tube of JR water-based lubricant” on a shelf inside the trailer. Melgarejo collected a sofa cushion and part of the wood floor of the trailer just inside the front door. These items were packaged for transmittal to serology for processing. Melgarejo also traveled to the Scheinhaus property, where he noticed the three concrete-filled planters and became suspicious that they might contain a cadaver. Fingerprint technician William Miller identified Chavez’s fingerprint on the handgun recovered from his trailer.   To determine whether fingerprints were present on the handgun, he placed it in a laboratory chamber in which super glue fumes were released, surrounding the handgun and adhering to the residue and oils left by any fingerprints. As a result, a fingerprint matching that of Chavez was found on the firearm. Miller testified that there were “ten points of identification throughout this fingerprint, which is only common to Chavez.   It’s an absolute and positive identification that his left thumb print made on the weapon.” On December 8, 1995, Miller also examined the books and notebooks found inside the book bag belonging to Jimmy Ryce. He found Chavez’s fingerprint on the front of one notebook found in the book bag. The fingerprint located on the interior of the notebook cover was found to “have sixteen points of identification, a positive identification, based on the left thumb print of Mr. Juan Carlos Chavez against the print which was developed on the inside cover.” Another print of value was located on the textbook entitled Journeys in Science. He found “this particular print of value from this area to be made by the right middle fingerprint of Chavez. I had nine points of identification.” When compared to the prints of Mrs. Scheinhaus and Edward Scheinhaus, the prints on the book bag contents did not match. Forensic serologist Theresa Merritt of the Metro Dade Police Department testified that she received items for examination on December 8, 1995. She was dispatched to the horse farm to assist crime scene personnel in attempting to determine whether blood was present. Merritt tested a twin-size mattress from the trailer, a cushion present on the bench in the trailer and a cut-out portion of the threshold area from the floor of the trailer. A scraping from the floor area produced a positive result for the presence of blood. Another sample, from a cushion in the trailer, yielded blood scrapings. Anita Mathews, assistant director of the forensic identity testing laboratory for “LabCorp” of North Carolina, testified that she was “responsible for doing interpretation on the results of the testing that the technologists conduct.” Mathews testified that they were not able to obtain a sufficient quantity or quality of genetic material from samples collected from the body of Jimmy Ryce for testing. However, DNA from the oral swab samples taken from his parents, Don and Claudine Ryce, was compared to the blood found on the floor of the trailer. This comparison produced the conclusion that the blood on the floor was extremely likely to have come from a child of Don and Claudine Ryce. Two other blood samples taken from the floor of the trailer carried the same genetic characteristics. Another blood sample, taken from the cushion found in the trailer, also was consistent with having come from the biological child of the Ryces. Dr. Roger Mittleman, Chief Medical Examiner for the Dade Medical Examiner’s Department, testified that, on December 9, he conducted an examination of the contents of the three planters. The cement in each planter encased the remains of what appeared to be a young boy. The remnants of a cement bag were in at least one of the planters. Dr. Mittleman described the clothing found on Jimmy’s body:  “It was dressed in this T-shirt and had on jeans and underwear. There was one sneaker on;  one sneaker was off. There were socks.” The doctor then corrected himself, and stated that only one sock was found on the body. The doctor testified that a body expands as it decomposes due to the breakdown of material and biological processes, causing gases to expand. This process could cause a body placed in a barrel to expand to the point that a lid would be forced off or open. The remains were significantly decomposed. Using dental records from Jimmy’s family dentist, a forensic dentist testified that the comparison with the jaw and teeth of the body was so strong that the “skeletal remains” were “positively identified as that of Jimmy Ryce.” An X-Ray of the body cavity revealed a flattened projectile jacket that lodged in the area of the heart and “great vessels.” The bullet entered at the point where the right sixth rib is located, went upward in the body, through the lung and the heart, and exited from the upper left chest Based upon the trajectory of the bullet, the gun would have been pointing slightly upward and below the individual who was shot. However, there was no evidence on the body which would demonstrate how far away the gun was when it was fired. On December 20, 1995, Detective McColman had transported a tool known as a “bush hook,” which had previously been impounded, to the medical examiner’s office. Dr. Mittleman was asked to examine the bush hook to determine if its cutting characteristics were consistent with the injuries inflicted on Jimmy’s body. The medical examiner noted that a number of the injuries inflicted on the body during dismemberment were consistent with having been made by the bush hook. However, he also testified that it was possible that more than one instrument had been used. Firearms examiner Thomas Quirk of the Metro-Dade Police Department Crime Laboratory testified that a.38 caliber Taurus model 85 revolver (State’s Exhibit 23) was submitted for his examination after it had been processed by the fingerprint section. He also received one aluminum jacket from a projectile recovered from the body of the victim, and two.38 caliber casings-a projectile identified as having come from a red bullet box and a casing that had been fired from a firearm. The two empty.38 caliber shell casings found in Chavez’s trailer were fired from the.38 recovered from Chavez’s trailer. Quirk testified that the manufacture of the barrel and the rifling process provide microscopic differences which are transferred to the bullet during firing and which repeat, similar to a fingerprint. Also, the projectile jacket recovered by the medical examiner and the lead core (the fatal bullet) were positively identified as having been fired by the gun recovered from Chavez’s trailer: “My conclusion is that this bullet was fired in this weapon to the exclusion of all other weapons in the world. This is the gun that fired this bullet.” After the State rested, Chavez moved for judgment of acquittal, which was denied. Defense counsel specifically argued the State’s failure to establish a corpus delicti for the crime of sexual battery. The defense then began the presentation of its case. During the examination of Ed Scheinhaus, Ed explained that he had been under house arrest at the time the kidnaping occurred. He worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and was required to stay at home at all other times, unless he arranged in advance to be away from his house. He had an ankle device, and would be called each day at random times (as controlled by a computer) throughout the period he was confined to his home. When called, he would have to “report in” by placing the ankle bracelet next to a device installed in his home. Chavez also testified in his own defense, stating that he had belonged to a counter-revolutionary group in Cuba. He gave details of his imprisonment (for attempting to escape and for stealing military property) in Cuba, and his eventual escape from the island. According to his trial testimony, Chavez encountered Ed Scheinhaus at the horse farm trailer after Jimmy had already been killed, and helped Ed to dispose of the boy’s body. Chavez testified that, after he was brought to police headquarters in connection with Jimmy’s disappearance, he was mistreated. He stated that, when he was placed in the police car, he was told, “Don’t do anything stupid or we’ll shoot you. We’re going to kill you.” He complained that his watch and beeper were taken away from him, and returned only after he gave his final confession. Chavez stated that, when they were interrogating him, he did not know what date or time it was. He said that he was not permitted to sleep, and no one ever offered him a pillow or a blanket. Chavez also claimed that the officers brought the book bag into the interrogation room, and asked Chavez to handle it and look through its contents, which he did. According to Chavez, the police goaded him into making up lies. He stated that the officers suggested details of his confession, and, to avoid deportation, he did whatever they wanted. After the defense rested, the State presented rebuttal testimony. The officers refuted that they had ever threatened Chavez, coerced him, or suggested any part of the confession to him; they denied that they had taken Chavez’s watch away or that anyone had hit him; and they testified that he had never mentioned Ed as the perpetrator during the questioning process. Ed Scheinhaus’s parole officer testified that Ed (who is in the pest control business) had his permission to travel to take care of a client on the afternoon on which he had received a speeding ticket, and that Ed had shown the ticket to the parole officer himself, without being asked to do so.  He testified that Ed had lost his ankle bracelet once (prior to September 11), and that he had come in that same day to have it replaced with a new one. He said that the file would only reflect times when calls were made to the house and Ed did not respond.   He said that he had nothing in the file for the month of September 1995, which indicated that Ed had remained home as required, and that no violations had occurred. At the close of rebuttal, Chavez renewed all motions, including the motion to suppress his statements, the motion for judgment of acquittal (particularly reiterating that the State had failed to prove the corpus delicti of the charge of sexual battery), and the motion for mistrial, based upon alleged cumulative errors. These motions were denied. The jury was instructed, and, following deliberation, entered verdicts of “guilty” on all of the counts charged. Following the penalty phase of the trial, the jury recommended death by a vote of twelve to zero. UPDATE: Juan Chazvez was executed for the rape and murder of 9 year old Jimmy Ryce in 1995. Chavez did not make a verbal final statement, but submitted a written statement that read in part: "I doubt there there is anything I can say that would satisfy everybody, even less those who see in me nothing more than someone deserving of punishment." Jimmy’s father Don, who is now 70, witnessed the execution along with his son Ted. They told reporters outside the prison that the execution closes a long, painful chapter and hopefully sends a powerful message to other would-be child abductors. "Don’t kill the child. Because if you do, people will not forget, they will not forgive. We will hunt you down and we will put you to death," Don Ryce said. Jimmy Ryce’s death led to changes in the legal system, and the way police respond to missing child cases. Don Ryce said recently that he and his wife became determined to turn their son’s horrific slaying into something positive, in part because they felt they owed something to all the people who tried to help find him. They also refused to wallow in misery. "You’ve got to do something or you do nothing. That was just not the way we wanted to live the rest of our lives," he said. The Ryces created the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, a nonprofit organization based in Vero Beach that works to increase public awareness and education about sexual predators, provides counseling for parents of victims and helps train law enforcement agencies in ways to respond to missing children cases. The organization has also provided, free of charge, more than 400 bloodhounds to police departments around the country and abroad. Ryce said if police searching for Jimmy had bloodhounds they might have found him in time. Another accomplishment was 1998 passage in Florida of the Jimmy Ryce Act, versions of which have also been adopted in other states. Under the law, sexual predators found to be still highly dangerous can be detained through civil commitment even after they have served their prison sentences. Such people must prove they have been rehabilitated before they can be released. Chavez had no criminal record, so the law would not have affected him.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 26, 2014 Florida James Herbert Fulford, Jr., 35 Paul Howell executed
Trooper Jimmy Fulford, murder victimDetailed article depicting this murder here .
In January of 1992, Paul Augustus Howell constructed a bomb for the specific purpose of killing Tammie Bailey at her home in Marianna, Florida. Bailey, Howell, and Howell’s brother, Patrick, were part of a drug ring involving a number of other individuals in which drugs were obtained in Fort Lauderdale and then sold in Marianna, Florida. Howell intended to eliminate Bailey as a witness because she had knowledge that could link Howell and his brother to a prior murder. The bomb was placed inside a microwave oven and then the oven was gift-wrapped. Howell paid Lester Watson to drive and deliver the microwave to Bailey. Although he knew that Howell had often made pipe bombs, Watson testified that he thought the microwave contained drugs. Howell rented a car for Watson to use for the trip. Watson was accompanied on the trip by Curtis Williams. While traveling on I-10 toward Marianna, Watson was stopped by Trooper Jimmy Fulford for speeding. Fulford ran a registration check on the car and a license check on Watson, who gave the trooper a false name and birth date because he did not have a valid driver’s license. The radio dispatcher contacted the car rental company and was informed that Howell had rented the car. The dispatcher contacted Howell at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to determine whether the rental car had been stolen from him. Howell told the dispatcher that he had loaned the car to Watson but did not know that Watson would be traveling so far with the vehicle. Howell was informed by the dispatcher that Watson was going to be taken to the Jefferson County Jail. Howell did not give any warning to the dispatcher regarding the bomb. Deputies Harrell and Blount of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the scene and Watson gave them permission to search the vehicle. Trooper Fulford and the deputies observed the gift-wrapped microwave in the trunk of the car. Watson was arrested for speeding and driving without a valid driver’s license and was transported, along with Williams, to the jail by Deputy Blount. Deputy Harrell also proceeded to the jail, leaving Trooper Fulford alone with the rental car. Shortly thereafter, a massive explosion took place at the scene. Testimony presented at Howell’s trial by the State’s explosives expert indicated that Trooper Fulford had been holding the microwave in his hands when the bomb went off. Trooper Fulford died instantly due to the massive trauma caused by the explosion. Howell was arrested and charged with Trooper Fulford’s murder. Frank Sheffield, a private attorney, was appointed to represent Howell due to a conflict of interest asserted by the Public Defender’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit. Venue of the trial was transferred from Jefferson County to Escambia County. The jury found Howell guilty of first-degree murder and of making, possessing, placing, or discharging a destructive device or bomb. The jury also returned a special verdict finding that the charge of first-degree murder was established by both proof of premeditated design and felony murder. At the penalty phase, the jury recommended death by a vote of ten to two
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
February 26, 2014 Missouri Ann Harrison, 15 Michael Taylor executed
Ann Harrison, murder victimOn the evening of March 21, 1989, Michael Taylor and companion Roderick Nunley stole a car and binged on cocaine. At about 7:00 a.m. on Mach 22, they saw 15-year-old Ann Harrison waiting for the school bus at the end of her driveway. Taylor allegedly stated he wanted to steal the girl’s purse, and Nunley, who was driving, stopped the car. Taylor spoke to the girl and then grabbed her and forced her into the car. Ann screamed and found her attackers but they threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop. Nunley then drove to this mother’s house where Ann was taken out of the car and forced to crawl down to the basement. Taylor then raped the girl. In his confession, Taylor stated that Nunley also raped Ann Harrison but only Taylor’s DNA was recovered. After the assault, the two men forced Ann into the trunk of the stolen car and tied her up. After Taylor stated he was afraid the girl would identify him, the two men decided to kill her. Ann at first refused to get in the trunk and pleaded with the men not to kill her, offering them money from her parents if they would let her go. They pretended to agree with her suggestion and told her they would take her to a pay phone so she could call her parents, but instead, Nunley retrieved two knives from the kitchen and both men stabbed Ann. Nunley knew Ann Harrison was going to die from her wounds. The former county medical examiner testified the victim was stabbed 10 times and she died approximately 30 minutes later. The men drove to a nearby neighborhood and parked the car, leaving Ann in the trunk. That night, Ann’s parents, Bob and Janel pleaded on local television news for their daughter to be safely returned. Nunley gave a videotaped confession to the police. Nunley was also sentenced to death for his role in this crime. UPDATE: In an interview shortly before his execution, Michael Anthony Taylor said he had written a letter to Ann Harrison’s parents and that a prison official assured him it would be offered to them. In the letter, Taylor said, he expressed “my sincerest apology and heartfelt remorse. I hope that they’ll accept it.” After the execution, Governor Jay Nixon released this statement: “Our thoughts and prayers tonight are with Bob and Janel Harrison, and the other members of Ann Harrison’s family, as they remember the 15-year-old child they lost to an act of senseless violence.” Friends and members of both the Harrison and Taylor families witnessed the execution. Among the state witnesses was retired Kansas City homicide Sgt. Dave Bernard, who was an investigator on the case. Taylor’s death came a little less than a month short of the 25th anniversary of Ann’s killing. Ann’s father, Bob Harrison, attended the execution, but did not want to make a statement afterward.

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