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Started by Jeff1857, June 26, 2009, 01:28:52 AM
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June 26, 2009, 01:28:52 AM
: September 17, 2010, 03:33:45 AM by Jeff1857
In December 2000, Corey Smith and seven other individuals were indicted for crimes committed in connection with the John Doe organization, a criminal enterprise that distributed powder and crack cocaine and marijuana in Miami-Dade County from 1994 to 1999. Smith was the alleged leader of the group and was convicted of conspiracy to engage in a criminal enterprise, engaging in a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, four counts of conspiracy to commit murder, four counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Leon Hadley, Cynthia Brown, Angel Wilson, and Jackie Pope, and two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Melvin Lipscomb and Marlon Beneby. On March 17, 2005, Smith received 2 sentences of life in prison for his involvement in the murders of Jackie Pope and Leon Hadley. Smith received 2 sentences of death for his involvement in the murders of Cynthia Brown and Angel Wilson. These sentences were received in conjunction with 8 other sentences ranging from 15 to 30 years in prison on a 14-count indictment. While the details of the other charges and sentences are explained elsewhere [see Smith v. State, No. 05,703 (Fla. Mar. 19, 2009)], this section of the case summary will outline only the circumstances of the offenses that resulted in a sentence of death. Cynthia Brown was smothered to death on July 24, 1997. Brown was the sole witness against Smith in the 1996 murder of Dominique Johnson, a 19-year-old rival drug seller. While several people witnessed the Johnson murder, Brown was the only individual who came forward to identify Smith to the police. Smith was scheduled to be tried for Johnson's murder on July 28, 1997. However, the prosecution was forced to dismiss the charges against Smith when Brown, the only witness, was found murdered less than a week before the trial was to take place. Several witnesses testified that Smith wanted to eliminate the witness who was going to testify against him in the Johnson murder case. Anthony Fail testified that Smith had offered him $50,000 to kill Brown, although he did not accept the offer. Fail also testified that Smith had put aside $20,000 to pay Brown's boyfriend, Chazre Davis, for murdering Brown. Carlos Walker testified that he heard Smith instructing Davis to strangle or suffocate Brown, so as to not leave evidence at the scene. Brown died from asphyxia as a result of being smothered with a pillow in a motel room she was sharing with Davis. The couple checked into the motel on the evening of July 23, 1997 and her body was found the following morning. Brown had petechial hemorrhages in her eyes, inside her upper lip, and on her epiglottis. Her lungs were full of fluid due to pulmonary edema. She had also sustained postmortem cuts on the side of her neck. All of these injuries were consistent with asphyxia as the cause of death. Angel Wilson was shot to death on December 1, 1998. Due to a continuing feud between Smith and Wilson's then-boyfriend, Anthony Fail, Smith had arranged for members of the John Doe organization to target Fail on the evening of Wilson's death. That night, the couple took Wilson's car when visiting the home of Fail's stepbrother, James Harvey. When they arrived, Harvey warned Fail that he had seen a car, occupied by John Doe members, circling the block. Fearing for Wilson's life, Fail persuaded her to leave the house and to drive home. Soon thereafter, Wilson was shot multiple times with a semiautomatic assault rifle while she was driving her car.Wilson died of multiple gunshot wounds to her entire body. She was struck 16 times by bullets entering the driver's side of her vehicle. Six of the bullet wounds were fatal. The medical examiner testified that Wilson's lungs were riddled with pieces of metal fragments ripped from the door by the passing bullets. The bullet wounds caused extensive tissue damage, including severing her left breast and part of her ankle. She died in the vehicle from internal injuries. Sentenced to Death 3/24/05.
Chazre Davis was indicted for the first-degree murder of Cynthia Brown, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and racketeering on 12/19/00. These charges are still under review in Miami-Dade county, case number F-00-040026-H.
Julius Stevens and Eric Stokes were charged in the murder of Angel Wilson. Stevens was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Eric Stokes was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 15-year sentence.
Derrick Tyrone Smith was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Jeffery Songer. On 03/21/83, Derrick Smith and Derrick Johnson carried out a robbery which they had previously planned. Following their plan, Smith called for a cab from a St. Petersburg restaurant payphone. A cab driver, Jeffery Songer, picked up the two men who requested to be taken to a nearby residential area. After becoming suspicious, Songer radioed an emergency code to his dispatch. His dispatch called the police and also sent another cab driver to answer Songer's distress call. The police and other cab driver found Songer lying about 70 feet from the car, dead from a gunshot wound to the back. A witness was able to identify Smith and Johnson. He testified to seeing Smith shoot Songer in the back when he tried to run from the taxicab. Another witness testified at trial to Smith robbing him and his wife in their motel room at gunpoint with a firearm similar to the one used to kill Songer. Smith pled guilty to those charges and received a life sentence. The firearm used to kill Songer was never found. Smith's uncle, however, reported that a firearm of the same type, a .38-caliber pistol, was missing from his home which several people testified to seeing Smith with shortly before the murder. Furthermore, the police were able to match the type of bullet that killed Songer to bullets that Smith's uncle had bought for his missing firearm. Smith's fingerprints were also found on the restaurant pay telephone that had been used to call for the taxicab. During the investigation, Smith said that he had sold the firearm the day before the murder to Johnson. Smith admitted that he called for the taxicab, but claims that at the last minute he changed his mind about the robbery and decided not to go. Resentenced to Death 7/13/90.
Was convicted of the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, has been sentenced to death for the Feb. 1, 2001.
Sean Hector Smith
Sean Smith was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Grazyna Mlynarczyk. On 10/29/96, Mlynarczyk was found dead her bedroom by her boyfriend, Zdzislaw Raminiski. Mlynarczyk was naked from the waist down and had been shot in the head. The morning of Mlynarczyk's murder, she had told Zdzislaw that she had a doctor's appointment and would call him afterwards. Mlynarczyk never called, and Zdzislaw was not able to contact her by phone. At this time, Zdzislaw went to Mlynarczyk's residence and entered using his key. Zdzislaw found Mlynarczyk, naked from the waist down, lying in her bedroom and moved her to the bed. He noted that she was cold and covered in blood. Smith then called the police. Firefighters responded to Zdzislaw's call and determined that Mlynarczyk was dead. Officers secured items from the scene, including a lotion bottle, a woman's undergarment, a pillow with a gun shot entering one side and exiting the other, two AmSouth Bank envelopes holding a total of $1,200, a shoe box holding $1,000 and a wallet holding $58. The officers also canvassed the area for possible witnesses. The police contacted Smith during the canvassing because he lived in an apartment close to Mylnarczyk's, but he told police that he had been working and did not know about the incident. A medical examiner determined that Mlynarcyk was shot at close range through the pillow. According to the medical examiner, there was semen in Mlynarczyk's vaginal area; furthermore, Mlynarczyk had a tear to the labia majora caused by trauma to the vagina, which was associated with nonconsensual sex. The DNA of the semen collected from Mlynarczyk's body matched the DNA obtained from Smith's blood sample. Furthermore, a trial expert, using statistical analysis, determined that Smith's DNA profile would be found in 1 out of 101 billion African Americans. Finally, Smith's fingerprints were matched to the lotion bottle secured by the police from Mlynarczyk's home. Sentenced to Death 12/18/98.
Stephen Smith, Dwight Eaglin, and Michael Jones were indicted for the first-degree murder of Officer Lathram at Charlotte Correctional Institution (CCI) during an escape attempt. The defendants were tried separately. Stephen Smith and two other inmates at CCI began formulating an escape plan in early 2003. The three men were part of a small inmate work crew of other CCI prisoners who were working on renovations to the inmate dormitories. This construction work allowed the men temporary access to a number of tools appropriate to plumbing and welding. The three men had planned to join various ladders together with bracing materials to create a ladder-bridge that would span the length of the two perimeter fences. It was planned that Eaglin would use the ladder-bridge to overcome the first perimeter fence and wait for a guard truck to pass. He would then attack the driver with a hammer from the tool cache, providing the inmates with transport. In discussing the plan with other inmates, Smith bragged that he would kill any correctional officer guarding them and that he would be famous for doing so. Smith also preferred to escape when a female officer was supervising the crew so that he could rape her. On 06/11/03, Smith, Eaglin, and Jones were working a construction detail that occasionally worked in the evening. Because these evening crews were composed of only five or six individuals, only one guard was assigned to supervise. Officer Lathram, a female correctional officer, was assigned to supervise the work detail on this particular evening. At 4:00 p.m., Officer Lathram took the five-person crew - the three defendants and two other inmates - to work in the dormitory for the evening. At 8:30 p.m., Lathram performed a head count. Just after the head count, Eaglin beat up inmate Charles Fuston and locked him in a cell. Eaglin then returned with a sledgehammer and beat him to death. Fuston knew of the escape plan and had decided against it. After the first murder, the three men told Officer Lathram that they required something from a locked mop closet. Officer Lathram took them to the closet and while she appropriated the key, Eaglin struck her twice in the head with a sledgehammer. They then took the officer's radio and keys and while Eaglin locked her body in the closet, Smith and Jones left to assemble the ladders for the escape. Before joining the others, Eaglin found the other inmate of the work detail and incapacitate him with a separate hammer. The three inmates then reunited at the interior perimeter fence. In their attempt to lift the ladder-bridge, it collapsed and fell against the fence, setting off an alarm. Officers responding to the alarm witnessed the three men trying to escape. Eaglin was found between the perimeter fences; Smith was climbing the ladder against the interior fence; and Jones was standing nearby within the interior fence. Officer Lathram's body was found in the locked mop closet, the sledgehammer on the floor beside her. The officers also discovered the other two inmates of the work detail, one of whom was injured, and Fuston, who was found dead in a locked cell. Sentenced to Death 8/18/06.
Dwight Eaglin was sentenced to death on 03/31/06 for his role in the murder of Officer Lathram. His Direct Appeal is currently pending in the Florida Supreme Court.
Michael Jones was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty for his role in the murder of Officer Lathram.
Samuel Smithers was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Cristy Cowan and Denise Roach. In 1995, Smithers made an agreement with Marion Whitehurst, who he had met through church, to maintain the lawn at her vacant Plant City house, which sat on 27 acres of land. Whitehurst gave Smithers a key to the gate but not one to the house. In 1996, Smithers again agreed to take care of the lawn at the Whitehurst's vacant property. On 05/28/96, Whitehurst stopped by the Plant City house and found Smithers cleaning an axe on the carport, which he said he had been using to cut down tree limbs. She also noticed a pool of blood on the carport, which Smithers speculated might have been made by someone killing an animal. Smithers told Whitehurst that he would clean up the blood. Whitehurst was disturbed by the blood and contacted the local Sheriff's Department. Later that evening, a deputy visited the Whitehurst's property. The pool of blood was gone, but the deputy noted drag marks that went from the carport to one of the ponds on the property. Upon arriving at the pond, the deputy found the body of Cristy Cowan floating in the water. A dive team was called in and found the body of Denise Roach in the same pond.
Officers searched the Whitehurst residence and accumulated evidence against the defendant.
They found a condom wrapper and a semen stain in one of the bedrooms. Officers also found Smithers' fingerprint in the kitchen. Using DNA testing, the blood in the carport was found to match Roach's DNA. Additionally, Smithers and Cowan were seen together on a convenience store security camera tape on the day of Cowan's murder. The state also determined that both Cowan and Roach were prostitutes who worked the same area, and Bonnie Kruse, another prostitute who worked that area, recognized Smithers as a previous customer. Another prostitute claimed that she gave Cowan a condom on the day that she disappeared, which was similar to the condom wrapper found inside the Whitehurst property. Two detectives visited Smithers' home. Smithers agreed to go with them to the sheriff's office for questioning and requested that his wife join them. At the conclusion of the interview, Smithers consented to take a polygraph test the next day. According to the polygraph test results, Smithers was not telling the truth. A detective explained this to Smithers and then Smithers made incriminating remarks about his involvement in the murders. Smithers again requested that his wife be present during the questioning. Smithers subsequently confessed to the killings of both Cristy Cowan and Denise Roach. According to Smithers, he was mowing the grass on the Whitehurst property on 05/07/96 when Roach approached him. Roach explained that she had permission to be on the property. On 05/13/96, Smithers said that Roach was still there, and he asked her to leave but she refused. Smithers told the officers that Roach hit him on the arm and that he then hit her in the face. Roach picked up a planter on the carport and threw it at his truck. At this point, Smithers shoved her against a wall causing a piece of wood to fall off of a shelf and hit her on the head knocking her unconscious. Smithers left the property but returned the following day and moved her body to the pond. According to the medical examiner, Roach's body was very decomposed and had probably been in the water for seven to ten days. She had 16 puncture wounds to her skull, fractures to her face and skull and injuries consistent with manual strangulation. The medical examiner also noted two large slits in Roach's clothing caused by a sharp instrument. The medical examiner determined that Roach died from the combination of strangulation, puncture wounds and blunt trauma to the head. In regard to the Cowan murder, Smithers told police that he stopped to help a car that was pulled off to the side of the road. The driver was Cowan. Smithers drove her to a nearby convenience store. When they were getting back into Smithers' vehicle, Cowan demanded money or she would accuse him of rape. He took Cowan to the Whitehurst residence and gave her all his money, but she was not pleased and threw a drink at him. Smithers reacted by picking up an axe and hitting Cowan in the head knocking her unconscious. Smithers dragged her to the pond. He was cleaning the axe on the carport when Whitehurst arrived. Smithers claimed that he could hear Cowan making noise while he spoke with Whitehurst. After Whitehurst left, Smithers returned to Cowan and hit her in the head again to make her be quiet and threw tree limbs at her. According to the medical examiner, Cowan had been dead a few hours when her body was found and had probably been alive when put in the water. She had injuries to her eye and lip. In addition, Cowan sustained blunt trauma to her jaw and chop wounds to the top of her head and behind her ear. Furthermore, Cowan had injuries consistent with manual strangulation. The medical examiner determined that Cowan died from the combination of strangulation and chop wounds. During the trial, Smithers offered a different testimony. Smithers claimed that he lied to detectives because he feared that his family would be harmed. According to this testimony, a girl by the name of Mimi was performing community service as a requirement of her probation at the church where Smithers was a deacon. Mimi was not able to complete her hours and offered to have sex with Smithers if he would alter her community service hours, and Smithers agreed. Several weeks later, Smithers was approached by an unknown man wanting to use the Whitehurst property as a location for a drug deal in exchange for not revealing the deal that Smithers made with Mimi. Smithers agreed and allowed the unknown man to use the property. He further testified that he witnessed the unidentified man kill Cowan and Roach. Sentenced to Death 6/25/99.
David B. Snelgrove
David Snelgrove was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of robbery with a deadly weapon, and one count of burglary of a dwelling with battery. He was sentenced to death on both first-degree-murder convictions.
On Sunday, June 25, 2000, Glyn and Vivian Fowler were found dead in their home. The elderly couple had been brutally beaten and stabbed to death, as evidenced by multiple fractures and stab wounds spread throughout their bodies. Ultimately, Vivian died from a stab wound to the heart, and Glyn died of a brain injury caused by blunt force trauma to the head. Evidence at the crime scene and in the surrounding area linked David Snelgrove, the twenty-seven-year-old nephew of one of the Fowlers' neighbors, to the murder. Snelgrove had recently moved in with his aunt and his cousin, Jeff McCrae, after being expelled from a drug rehabilitation program. Blood droplets matching Snelgrove's DNA were found throughout the house, as were bloody fingerprints and footprints matching Snelgrove's. A trained bloodhound followed a scent from the blood on the Fowlers' broken window to Snelgrove, and the police recovered a knife in the woods next to the Snelgrove home with blood matching Snelgrove's DNA. Resentenced to Death 10/28/09.
Dennis Sochor was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Patricia Gifford. According to the testimony of Gary Sochor, Dennis Sochor's brother, he and Dennis met Patricia Gifford, the victim, at a lounge on New Year's Eve of 1981. When it was time to leave the lounge, Gary said that Dennis and Gifford were kissing while he waited in the truck. Gifford agreed to accompany Gary and Dennis to breakfast. Gary testified that Dennis drove to an isolated area with the victim sitting between the brothers in the truck. Dennis then stopped the vehicle. Gary claimed that Dennis assaulted Gifford while she screamed for help and that he tried to stop Dennis from assaulting the victim, but Dennis told him to get back in the truck. A short time later, Dennis came back to the truck, and they went home. The next morning, Gary found a woman's shoe, sweater, and a set of keys in Dennis' truck. He hid the keys. Later on, Gary noted that the truck had been cleaned and the shoe and sweater had been removed. Gary told Dennis about the keys and then gave the keys to Dennis because he demanded them. Gary returned to Michigan a few days later. A female friend of the victim, who had accompanied Gifford to the lounge, testified at trial. She testified that they went to the lounge for a New Year's Eve celebration. The friend became sick during the night, and Gifford, with the help of the Sochor brothers, assisted the friend to her car. Gifford's friend awoke the next morning, realized that Gifford was missing and called the police. The police acquired a photo from the previous evening that showed Gifford with an unknown man. The photo was displayed on television, and Dennis Sochor's roommates testified that Sochor quickly left after seeing the photo of himself sitting near the victim at the bar on television. When the police learned that Gary Sochor had recently returned to Michigan, they interviewed him. Gary told the police that Dennis Sochor was responsible for Gifford's disappearance. He also agreed to return to Florida to help find Gifford's body. The police were never able to find Gifford's body. Dennis Sochor was arrested in Georgia on unrelated charges and extradited to Florida. Three taped confessions made by Sochor while in police custody were played for the jury. Sochor said that he had met Gifford at the lounge on New Year's Eve, and they spent the evening talking. In the
parking lot, they kissed and Sochor wanted to have sex with Gifford. She, however, refused, and they fought. During the fight, Gifford hit him, and Sochor choked her. Sochor claimed that he thought he killed Gifford and drove to a secluded area to get rid of the body. Dennis said that Gary was not with him during this part of the evening. Dennis Sochor said that he threw away pieces of a woman's clothing that he found in his truck. After seeing the photo of himself and the victim on television, he drove to Tampa in his employer's truck and abandoned the truck there. Sochor then went to New Orleans and on to Atlanta. In 1986, Sochor was arrested in Georgia on unrelated criminal charges and then was extradited to Florida. Sentenced to Death 11/2/87.
Anthony Spann was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Kazue Perron. On 11/13/97, Lenard Philmore and Sophia Hutchins robbed a pawnshop, stealing mostly jewelry and
firearms. Anthony Spann drove the getaway car. Philmore and Spann spent that night at a motel with Keyontra Cooper and Toya Stevenson. On 11/14/97, Cooper received a phone call that the police were looking for Philmore. Spann and Philmore decided that they needed to leave town. The two men also decided to rob a bank because they needed money to leave town. Spann and Philmore believed that the police would be looking for Spann's Subaru that they had used in the pawnshop robbery and planned to use in the bank robbery. Spann and Philmore decided to carjack a woman and use her car to leave town. Spann and Philmore looked for a victim at a shopping mall, but were unsuccessful. They continued to look in a "nice neighborhood" until they saw a woman driving a Lexus, who they followed until she pulled into the driveway of a home. Philmore approached the woman, Kazue Perron, and asked to use her cell phone. He then forced Perron back into the Lexus at gunpoint. Philmore drove with the victim in her car, and Spann followed in his Subaru. They drove to an isolated area where Philmore shot Perron in the head and dumped her body in the canal. Philmore and Spann drove to the bank in Spann's Subaru. Once at the bank, Philmore went inside, snatched an estimated $1,000 from a customer at the bank counter and fled to the car. The men left the bank in the Subaru, later abandoned it and picked up the Lexus. Afterwards, Spann and Philmore picked up Cooper and Stevenson. An undercover officer observed Spann driving the Lexus and knew that he was wanted on an outstanding homicide warrant. The officer radioed for
back-up who began to follow Spann. Spann attempted to outrun the police in the Lexus, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph through a residential area. Spann was able to elude the police when he reached the interstate. The Lexus was found off the road after blowing a tire. A motorist contacted police when he saw the Lexus drive off the road and four people flee into an orange grove. The owner of the orange grove also saw the four run into the grove and noticed they were armed. The grove owner instructed the four people to hide in the brush near the creek. He then called police and helped the police search. Spann, Philmore, Cooper and Stevenson were found hiding in the orange grove. Two guns and a beeper
were found in the water near where the four had been hiding. The bullet removed from the victim and the shells recovered at the scene were positively identified as matching one of the firearms that was stolen from the pawnshop, which was recovered from the creek near where Spann,
Lenard Philmore (Martin County Circuit Court #97-1672)
Philmore was convicted of First-Degree Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Firearm, Carjacking with a Firearm, Kidnapping (during the commission of a felony or to facilitate a felony), Robbery with a Firearm, and Grand Theft (more than $300 and less than $5,000). On 07/21/00, Philmore was sentenced to death, a fifteen-year sentence, three life sentences, and a five-year sentence, respectively.
Dusty Ray Spencer
Dusty Spencer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Karen Spencer. Karen Spencer asked her husband, Dusty Spencer, to move out of their home early in December 1991. On 12/10/91, Dusty Spencer questioned Karen about money that she had withdrawn from the banking account for their painting business. This argument led to a physical altercation in which Dusty choked, hit, and threatened to kill Karen. Karen called the police, and the police subsequently arrested Dusty. Dusty later called and threatened Karen from jail. Karen Spencer requested that Dusty Spencer spend the holidays at their home, but asked him to leave after Christmas. On New Year's Day, Dusty told friends that he had considered throwing Karen off of his boat, in order to drown her. On 01/04/92, Dusty Spencer again went to Karen's home, and they fought. During the fight, Timothy Johnson, Karen's son awoke, and went into his mother's bedroom where Dusty and Karen Spencer were fighting. According to Johnson, Dusty was on top of Karen and was hitting her with a clothes iron. When Johnson intervened, Dusty hit him with the clothes iron as Johnson retreated to his bedroom. Karen fled the home to find help. Johnson tried to call for help, but Dusty Spencer pulled the phone out of the wall. Dusty then fled the house and left town. Karen Spencer and Timothy Johnson were taken to the hospital, and a physician confirmed that Karen's wounds were consistent with being struck by a clothes iron. On 11/18/92, Timothy Johnson heard fighting in the backyard. He retrieved a firearm from his mother's bedroom and went outside. Once outside, Johnson saw Dusty Spencer hitting his mother with a brick. He also observed blood on Karen Spencer's face. Johnson reported that he tried to shoot Dusty
Spencer, but the firearm misfired. Thus, he hit Spencer in the head with the butt of the firearm. Dusty then pulled up Karen's nightgown and made lewd comments and slammed Karen's head against a concrete wall. Karen was begging Dusty to stop, and Johnson tried to help his mother get away from Dusty. Dusty threatened Johnson with a knife; therefore, Johnson ran to a neighbor's home to find help. The police were called, and upon arrival, they found the dead body of Karen Spencer. The police determined that she had been stabbed four or five times in the chest. She also had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and defensive cuts to the hands and arms. Resentenced to Death 1/18/95.
Steven Stein was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Dennis Saunders and Bobby Hood.
On 01/20/91, Dennis Saunders and Bobby Hood, shift supervisors at the Edgewood Avenue Pizza Hut, were shot to death in the store. Saunders was shot four times and Hood was shot five times. A sum of $980 also was taken from the restaurant. The bodies of Saunders and Hood were found the next day in the men's bathroom of the Pizza Hut. Ronald Burroughs, an employee, had left the restaurant shortly after 11 p.m. He testified that two customers were still inside when he left. Burroughs identified the customers as Steven Stein and Marc christmas, the co-defendant. Stein was a Pizza Hut employee and Christmas was a former employee of Pizza Hut. The police also found Christmas's fingerprint on the unpaid guest check. Kyle White, the roommate of Stein and Christmas, testified that Stein and Christmas had discussed how to rob a Pizza Hut restaurant. On 01/20/91, Stein and Christmas left the apartment about 9:30 p.m. with a rifle and claimed they were going to see Christmas's father about selling it. Christmas' father, however, testified that Stein nor Christmas came to see him that night. Stein and Christmas were back home by 11:45 p.m. After being arrested, Stein gave a statement to the police. Stein waived his rights and said that he wanted to talk about the crime. Stein admitted to being part of the robbery and said that it had "gone bad." He never admitted to shooting either Saunders or Hood. Sentenced to Death 7/23/91.
Codefendant Status: Marc Christmas (Duval County Circuit Court # 91-1504)
Marc Christmas was convicted of three counts for his involvement in the crimes that occurred on 01/20/91. Christmas was sentenced on 11/12/91. He received three life sentences for the two counts of First-Degree Murder during the Commission of a Felony and for one count of Robbery with a Deadly Weapon.
Jason D. Stephens
Jason D. Stephens was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 3-year-old Robert Sparrow III.
On 06/02/97, Jason Stephens and several accomplices broke into the home of Robert Sparrow, Jr. Stephens refused to name his accomplices. Horace Cummings, however, turned himself into authorities as one of the accomplices. The police never apprehended the other accomplices. According to Stephens, he went with his accomplices, including Horace Cummings, to the Sparrow home to buy drugs, and he claimed that they did not know about his plans to commit the robbery. According to testimony at trial, Stephens came into the home carrying a 9-mm firearm. Stephens was standing next to 3-year-old Robert Sparrow III and Consuelo Brown, Sparrow's mother. Brown confronted Stephens, who hit her in the face with the firearm. Stephens then shot a bullet into the floor to prove that the firearm was loaded and demanded money and marijuana. Stephens told Robert Sparrow Jr. to give him the keys to the blue car parked near the house, but Sparrow did not have the car keys. Stephens told all of the hostages, which included Robert Sparrow III, Robert Sparrow Jr., Consuelo Brown, Kahari Brown, Tracey Williams, Derrick Hosea Dixon and Tammy Cobb, to lie on the ground, and an unknown man held the hostages at gunpoint while Stephens looked around the home for a room in which to put the hostages. Stephens chose the bathroom and made the hostages crawl to the bathroom. David Cobb, Robert Sparrow Jr.'s half brother and his friend, Roderick Gardener, arrived at the home during the commission of the robbery and were forced into the bathroom with the other hostages. Items taken from the men included the keys to Gardener's mother's green Kia. Stephens showed the hostages his ID and said that he was taking Robert Sparrow III with him for 'insurance.' Stephens said that he would leave Robert Sparrow III somewhere if he was not followed. Stephens left the Sparrow residence with Robert Sparrow III in the green Kia because his accomplices would not let him in the black car, which they had driven to the Sparrow residence, with the child. Both the black and green cars left, and they pulled over less than one mile away and left Robert Sparrow III in the car in a sunny area around 2:30 in the afternoon. The car was not found until after 9 o'clock that night. Three-year-old Robert Sparrow III was found dead in the green Kia. Stephens claimed that the Sparrow was alive when he left him in the car. A doctor presented by the defense testified that Robert Sparrow III died from hyperthermia due to being in the hot car for the extended period of time. In contrast, the medical examiner testified that Sparrow died from asphyxiation, which included either strangulation or suffocation; however, the medical examiner could not rule out hyperthermia. Sentenced to Death 4/7/98.
On 10/03/86, Kenneth Allen Stewart was sentenced to death for the first-degree murder of Mark Harris, 15 years for the attempted first-degree murder of Michele Acosta, 27 years for armed robbery, and 15 years for arson.
On the evening of 04/14/85, Stewart was hitchhiking and was picked up by Michele Acosta, who was driving with Mark Harris. Stewart climbed into the back seat and requested a location to be dropped off. When Acosta stopped at the desired location, Stewart struck Acosta on the head with the end of his gun and fired three gunshots. Acosta suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder and Harris suffered a gunshot wound to the spine.
Stewart forced Acosta and Harris out of the car and drove to pick up his friend, Terry Smith. The two men removed items found in the trunk of the car, and Stewart set the car on fire after telling Smith that the car belonged to a woman and man whom he shot.
Some time later, Stewart was arrested and immediately charged. Stewart allowed officers to search his apartment, which yielded items he and Smith had taken from Acosta's car. Investigators presented photographs of potential suspects to Acosta and Harris. Acosta, who had recovered from her injuries, identified Stewart as the attacker. Harris, who was dying from his injury, also identified Stewart as his attacker, and died shortly afterward.
During trial, Acosta testified as a surviving victim. Smith served as a secondary witness and testified that Stewart admitted to the shootings and provided details of the offense.
Ernest Suggs was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Pauline Casey.
Pauline Casey worked at the Teddy Bear Bar in Walton County. On 08/06/90, the bar was found unlocked and cash was missing. Furthermore, Casey's purse, keys, and car were found at the bar, but the victim was not. Ray Hamilton, a neighbor of Casey's, reported to police that Casey and a customer, who he did not recognize, were playing pool when he left. The police were put on alert looking for the man and the man's car that matched Hamilton's description.
Ernest Suggs was pulled over based on the description of the car. Suggs permitted police to search his home and car. They found $170 in small bills, hand and fingerprints belonging to Casey in Suggs' car, and blood that matched the victim's blood on a shirt belonging to Suggs. In the bay behind Suggs' residence, the police also found a key to the bar and a beer mug similar to the beer mugs at the Teddy Bear Bar. The police matched Suggs' tire tracks from his automobile to tracks found on a local dirt road. In a search of this area, police found Casey's body a short distance from the road on which the tire tracks were found. She was stabbed twice in the neck and once in the back. Suggs was arrested after the discovery of Casey's body. Ernest Suggs asserted that he had been framed for the murder of Casey.
Roy Swafford was convicted and sentenced to death for the 02/14/82 murder of Brenda Rucker.
During the early morning hours of 02/13/82, Roy Swafford and several of his friends drove from Nashville, Tennessee, to Daytona Beach, Florida. The group planned to camp at a state park and attend the Daytona 500 Race on Sunday 02/14/82. Swafford and his friends went out to a bar called the Shingle Shack on the evening of 02/13/82, returning to the campground near midnight. Swafford then went out again, and did not return until early Sunday morning.
Patricia Atwell, a dancer at the Shingle Shack, testified that Swafford returned to the bar that night around 1:00 a.m. Atwell left the bar with Swafford when she got off work at 3:00 a.m., and the two spent the rest of the night together at the house of one of Swafford's friends. Atwell testified that Swafford returned her to the Shingle Shack by 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Swafford then reportedly drove from the Shingle Shack back to the campground, a route that would have taken him by the FINA gas station on U.S. Highway 1.
On the morning of 02/14/82, Brenda Rucker was working at the FINA gasoline station off U.S. Highway 1in Ormond Beach, Florida. Two witnesses placed Rucker at the scene before 6:20 a.m. A third witness arrived at the gas station at or a few minutes after 6:20 a.m. and found the store open, the lights on, but no attendant on duty. At that time, the police and the manager of the FINA station were called to the scene.
On 02/15/82, Brenda Rucker's body was discovered a few miles from the gas station in a wooded area. Medical examiners determined the cause of death to be blood loss from a gunshot wound to the chest. Rucker had been shot nine times, with two of those shots being to the head. Medical examiners also determined from the semen found in Rucker's vagina that she had been sexually assaulted. In examining the type of gun used, which was a .38 caliber, and the number of gunshot wounds, investigators concluded that the killer had to stop and reload the gun at least once during the shooting.
After the Daytona 500, Swafford and his friends returned to the Shingle Shack. One of members of the group got into a fight with some other individuals after he got swindled on a drug deal. Swafford pulled a gun and retrieved his friend's money. When police were called to the scene, Swafford attempted to discard the gun in the trash can of one of the restrooms at the Shingle Shack. Police retrieved the gun and performed ballistics tests. They determined that Swafford's gun was the same one used in the shooting death of Brenda Rucker.
Swafford was convicted of First-Degree Murder and sentenced to death on 11/12/85.
William Sweet was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 13-year-old Felicia Bryant.
In June 1990, Marcine Cofer was robbed and physically accosted in her apartment by three men. Cofer was able to identify two of her attackers by name and on 06/26/90, she was taken to the police station to try to identify the third assailant through photographs. That evening Detective Robinson dropped Cofer off back at her apartment. William Sweet was watching from afar as Cofer left the detective.
Sweet had previously implicated himself to a friend as the third perpetrator in the attack and robbery of Cofer.
That same evening, Cofer asked her neighbor, Mattie Bryant, if Bryant's two daughters, Felicia and Sharon Bryant, could stay with her in her apartment. Mattie agreed and the girls went over to Cofer's place around 8:00 p.m.
At 1:00 a.m., Sharon reported hearing a loud kick on the apartment door. She woke Cofer and informed her of the noise. After checking the premises, Cofer told Sharon not to worry as it appeared that whoever had been there had left. Cofer then went back to bed. Sharon then saw someone pulling on the screen in the living room and again alerted Cofer. Cofer then looked out the peephole of her front door and noticed Sweet standing outside the apartment.
Cofer told Felicia to bang on the wall of the bathroom, alerting her mother, Mattie Bryant, who was next door. Mattie rushed over a few minutes later. The four women lined up behind the door, with Cofer in the back of the line. As they attempted to leave, William Sweet forced his way inside the apartment, trying to cover his face with a pair of pants. Sweet opened fire on Cofer, and then proceeded to shoot the other three women. Six shots were fired. Cofer was shot twice, as was Felicia. Felicia died as a result of the gunshot wounds to her abdomen and hand.
Michael Tanzi was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Janet Acosta.
During her lunch hour on April 25, 2000, Janet Acosta was seated inside her van with the window rolled down, reading a book at the Japanese Gardens in Miami, Florida. At the same time, Tanzi was stranded in Miami with no means of returning to his home in Key West. Tanzi approached Acosta's van, asking her for a cigarette and the time. When Acosta was distracted, Tanzi punched her repeatedly in the face and gained entry into the van. Holding her wrist and threatening her with a razor blade, he drove the van to Homestead, Florida.
When they reached Homestead, Tanzi stopped at a gas station where he bound and gagged Acosta with materials found in her van. He took 53 dollars in cash, purchased cigarettes and a soda, and took Acosta's bank card. He also forced Acosta to perform oral sex but stopped her from continuing because her teeth were loose from the earlier beating. Tanzi continued driving on to Tavernier in the Florida Keys.
In Tavernier, Tanzi stopped at approximately 5:15 p.m. to withdraw money from Acosta's account using her personal identification number. Soon thereafter, he stopped again at a hardware store to purchase duct tape and razor blades. At approximately 6:30 p.m., they arrived at Sugarloaf Key. It was there that Tanzi decided he would have to eliminate Acosta as she was impeding his progress and leaving her alive would result in his swift capture. He drove to an isolated area in Cudjoe Key, told her he was going to kill her, and began to strangle her. He stopped to place duct tape over her mouth, nose, and eyes in an attempt to quiet her and then strangled her until she expired. Tanzi then left Acosta's body in a wooded area.
Tanzi then drove to Key West, where he used Acosta's ATM card, smoked marijuana, and visited friends. He had planned to purchase more drugs with her money and to alter the appearance of the van, but the police found Acosta's van after her friends had reported her missing. When the police approached Tanzi about the van, he had receipts in his pocket documenting his use of Acosta's ATM card and told the police that he "knew what this was about." He waived his rights and began confessing to the assault, abduction, robbery, sexual battery, and murder of Janet Acosta.
He repeated his confession in great detail on audio and videotape. He also showed the police where he had left Acosta's body and where he had disposed of the duct tape and rope.
John Calvin Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Shannon Holzer.
Perry A. Taylor
Perry Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Geraldine Birch.
Perry Taylor admitted to killing Geraldine Birch. According to Taylor, he was standing with a group of friends when Birch joined the group. Taylor claimed that the group dispersed but that as he walked away Birch called him back and told him that she was trying to get to Sulphur Springs. Taylor said that he did not have an automobile. At this point, Birch offered sex in exchange for money or crack cocaine. They agreed on ten dollars and went to the dugout of a Little League field. Otis Allen and Adrian Mitchell testified to seeing Taylor and Birch talking prior to their going into the dugout area.
Taylor said that he and Birch briefly had sex but that she ended the sex. Birch then began to perform oral sex on Taylor. Taylor claimed that Birch bit his penis, and he had to choke and hit her to make her let go of him. Taylor also admitted to additionally hitting Birch in anger. The medical examiner also testified that Birch had sustained a minimum of ten massive hits that damaged most of her internal organs, including her brain, larynx, heart, lungs, spleen and ribs. Furthermore, Birch was found to have a bite mark on her arm, bruising on her face, chest and stomach, and patches of missing hair. Taylor did not have the expected injuries based on his story.
Steven Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Alice Vest.
William Taylor met Sandra Kushmer and her brother, Billy D. Maddox, at Harry's Bar in Riverview. Taylor knew Kushmer from school. When Taylor noticed that Kushmer's brother bought expensive drinks and left generous tips, he decided to rob them. He took them to their mother's house where he attacked them and robbed them. Taylor hit Kushmer in the head then shot her in the face with a shotgun. He then severely beat Maddox. Maddox nearly died from the beating, he received several fractures to his skull and allegedly still suffers from lasting brain damage from the incident.
After the incident, while still in Tampa, Taylor washed his bloody clothes, pawned the shotgun, made charges to the Maddox's credit card and attempted to cash one of Maddox's checks. Taylor then fled to Memphis, Tennessee, where he assumed Maddox's identity of a stockbroker and used his stolen credit cards and checks to make purchases. Taylor was arrested in Memphis.
Taylor has given various accounts of what happened. At one point he claimed that his wife, Lorena Taylor, and a man named Jose Arano were present and participated in the crimes; however, neither of them has been charged with a crime.
William Thomas was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Rachel Thomas.
To avoid paying his portion of their impending divorce settlement, William Thomas planned to kidnap and kill his wife. On 09/12/91, Thomas and his friend, Douglas Schraud, went to Rachel's house in order to kidnap her. Thomas beat Rachel and then tied her up. Rachel attempted to flee by hopping outside, but Thomas dragged her back into the house by her hair. Thomas then put Rachel into the truck of her car and left the scene. Rachel Thomas was never seen again.
Thomas was eventually indicted for the murder of his wife in May, 1993. Thomas had made numerous inculpatory statements about Rachel Thomas' disappearance; however, suspicion fell heavily upon Thomas after his mother was murdered. Authorities believed that Thomas killed his mother in order to prevent her from implicating him in the murder of Rachel Thomas.
William Thomas was also convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment (CC #93-5393) for the 05/04/93 murder of his mother, Elsie Thomas, who he killed in order to keep her from talking to the police about the death of Rachel Thomas. On 07/14/94, Thomas pled guilty to the murder of Elsie Thomas. In exchange for a recommendation of life in this case (CC #93-5393), Thomas waived his right to appeal any guilt phase issue arising out of the trial for the murder of his wife, Rachel Thomas (CC #93-5394).
William Thompson was convicted and sentenced to death for the 03/30/76 kidnapping, rape and murder of Sally Ivester.
The defendant, Robert Trease, and his accomplice Hope Siegel conspired to rob the victim Paul Edeson. The robbery resulted in Trease killing the victim with a knife.
Trease and Siegel planned for her to arrange a date with the victim so that she could learn where the victim kept a hidden safe. They planned to return later to recover any money the victim may have had. Siegel arrived at the victim's home and after spending time with the victim, determined that he did not have a safe. She left the victim's residence and met with Trease, to inform him that the victim did not own a safe. Trease followed Ms. Siegal back to the victim's house where he surprised and attacked the victim in an effort to obtain the safe's location. The victim continued to insist that he did not have a safe in his house. Trease told Siegel to get a gun, which he put to the victim's head as he continued the questioning. The victim remained uncooperative so Trease fired a non-lethal bullet into his head and then asked Siegel to retrieve a knife. He then cut the victim's throat resulting in his death. Subsequent to his arrest, Trease denied any knowledge or involvement in the crime. Siegel, however, gave a detailed statement implicating them both.
George Trepal was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Peggy Carr.
On 06/16/86, Melvin Trotter strangled and stabbed grocery store owner, Virgie Langford six times in the right side and once in the left, which disemboweled her.
Was sentenced to death for the Septermber 11, 2001 murder of Bonnie Carroll.
Alwyn Tumblin shot Jimmy Johns, 67, to death in his auto shop on May 24, 2004.
Update: FL Supreme Court Tossed Conviction on 2/25/10.
Turner -- who had escaped from a South Carolina prison -- stabbed Renee Howard 15 times in a room at the Comfort Inn just off Interstate 95 at state Road 207 on Sept. 30, 2005. Turner also attacked her friend, who locked herself in the bathroom to get away from him.
William Turner was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Shirley Turner, and her roommate, Joyce Brown. In the early morning hours of 07/03/84, William Turner broke into the home of his estranged wife, Shirley Turner, and stabbed her twenty-two times in front of their daughter Anetra. Joyce Brown, Shirley's roommate, fled the scene in search of help. William Turner tracked her down and cornered Joyce in a telephone booth where she was attempting to call 911. Despite her pleas, Turner stabbed her fifty-one times, repeatedly shouting, "You're the one!" William Turner reportedly believed that his wife and Joyce Brown were involved in a lesbian relationship, and he blamed Joyce for stealing his wife and family. Turner also reportedly believed that his wife was a prostitute.
Sentenced to Death 11/1/85.
Sentenced to die for the murder of attorney David Thomas in 2002. Thomas was shot and then buried, while still alive, in the backyard of a home in East Fort Myers.
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