february 12, 2014

UPDATE: Juan Carlos Chavez was executed at 8:17 p.m., according to the governor’s office.

Juan Carlos Chavez had no last words in death chamber, but apparently wrote out a last statement to be distributed later


The execution of Juan Carlos Chavez, the South Miami-Dade farmhand who raped and murdered 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce in 1995, was temporarily delayed Wednesday evening because of last-minute legal wrangling.

A spokeswoman for the office of Gov. Rick Scott said the state, as of 6:30 p.m., was still awaiting a final go-ahead from the U.S. Supreme Court.

UPDATE 3.55 pm

For his last meal, Chavez requested ribeye steak; French fries; a fruit mixture of mangoes, bananas and papaya; strawberry ice cream; and mango juice. He ate and drank all of it, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.

Chavez had no visitors Wednesday except for a Catholic spiritual adviser. Cary said his demeanor was calm.


he case haunted Miami-Dade Police Det. Pat Diaz’s career

For Pat Diaz, retracing the steps of a tragedy is not easy.

“That’s the bus stop,” Diaz says, pointing at a street corner in the area near Homestead known as the Redland.

The former Miami-Dade Police homicide detective led the search for a missing boy named Jimmy Ryce back in 1995.

“When you have a missing 9-year-old, you want to believe, you always have the hope that you’ll find the child,” Diaz said, reminiscing about the case that would haunt his career.

To this day, the street sign at the corner is a memorial to the little boy who never grew up, decorated with flowers and pictures of Jimmy. A man named Juan Carlos Chavez took Jimmy, a case that struck fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. Detective Diaz heard the details when Chavez confessed.

“He tells us he rolls down his window, points the gun at him and says get in the trunk, Jimmy crosses the street and gets in the trunk with him, and basically this is where it happened,” Diaz said, standing at the spot at which Chavez abducted the boy. “Jimmy was probably 250 yards from his house, that’s how close he was to his house.”

Volunteers passed out flyers, joined police in searching the area, and it was all too late. Chavez had already abducted, tortured, and killed Jimmy in his trailer.

“It’s the parent’s worst nightmare,” said Michael Band, a Miami attorney who, in 1995, was the prosecutor on the case.

Band won the first-degree murder conviction and a death sentence for Chavez, who is scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

But it wasn’t easy, Band says. There was tremendous pressure from the community, the trial had to be moved to Orlando to seat an impartial jury, and he had to control his own emotions.

“You don’t remove yourself, you try to be as rational as one can be but you think about things like that, you think, that could’ve been my kid, could’ve been your kid,” Band said.

Chavez was on the way to death row, but the pain only got worse for the victim’s father, Don Ryce: Over the years he lost everyone except his son, Ted Ryce. After Jimmy’s murder, the stress and depression hung over the Ryce family. A heart attack killed Don Ryce’s wife, Claudine Ryce, in 2009. His daughter committed suicide, still despondent over Jimmy’s death.

“If there was ever anyone in the world who deserved to die it’s the man who did that,” Don Ryce said last month, speaking after the governor signed the death warrant for Chavez.

“I think, sadly, the statistics are that predators are not going to be deterred because Juan Carlos Chavez gets executed,” Band said.

That doesn’t mean Band has second thoughts about asking for the death penalty. He agrees that Chavez got what he deserved. Band says the verdict was professionally satisfying, but there’s a hole in his heart when he thinks of Don Ryce.

“He still goes home without Jimmy,” Band said, and the execution won’t change that awful reality. (nbcmiami)

February 11, 2014

  Juan Carlos Chavez                       Jimmy Rice

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — “It’s been a long, long time coming,” said the father of Jimmy Ryce, upon learning that Wednesday, February 12th is the day the man who kidnapped, raped, murdered and dismembered his 9-year-old son, will be put to death.

It was September 11, 1995 when Jimmy Ryce disappeared without a trace when he got off his school bus near his home in The Redland.

Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, was convicted of the heinous crime three years later.

It was a trial that captivated South Florida and the rest of the nation.

Chavez was charged with the crime three months after Jimmy vanished. Chavez confessed but years would pass before he came to trial. The delay tormented Jimmy’s parents.

“There is no constitutional right to delay a trial until the victim’s families die of old age,” said Jimmy’s father Don Ryce in May of 1998.

Chavez did eventually go before a jury in Orlando. The trial was moved there because of intense media scrutiny. The Ryce family came to the trial every day, including Jimmy’s sister Martha.

“And I’m here to represent my family, and Jimmy, because he can’t be here,” said Martha in September of 1998.

Lead prosecutor Catherine Vogel told of Chavez confessing to snatching Jimmy Ryce from the side of the road, raping and shooting him in a remote trailer, and then using a wicked looking bush hook to dismember the boy’s body.

“He took the tool, he chopped the body into about four different pieces,” said Vogel during the 1998 trial.

Chavez sealed the remains with concrete in plastic planters.

For then prosecutor Vogel, now Monroe County’s State Attorney, they are images she will never forget.

“We had to excavate those planters, we had to dig through the concrete to find poor little Jimmy Ryce’s body that had been dismembered,” said Vogel.

Ranch owner Susan Scheinhaus testified how she found Jimmy’s book bag and homework in a travel camper that Chavez lived in which was located on her property where he worked as a farm hand.  But the defense dropped a bombshell.

“The detectives were telling me what I should and should not write,” said Chavez through a translator at the trial.

Chavez recanted his confession and claimed his employer’s son killed Jimmy.

The Ryce’s watched outraged at the defense ploy.

“Their dream is to exchange high fives over Jimmy’s grave, while they set their client loose to rape and murder another child,” said an angry Don Ryce during the trial.

But former homicide detective Felix Jimenez, who is now with the Inspector General’s office, took Chavez’s confession. He said Chavez first told a series of lies including a tale of accidentally running over Jimmy and putting his body in a canal that divers searched for hours before Chavez finally came clean.

“He admitted in detail to everything that he did,” said Jimenez. “His confession was so detailed, that only the killer would know.”

For instance, police didn’t know until Chavez told them that Jimmy was killed in the filthy, falling down trailer.

“When we went there and we looked, and we found Jimmy Ryce’s blood exactly where he said he shot him, then we knew we had gotten to the truth,” said Vogel.

A gun found in Chavez’s camper was an exact ballistics match for the bullet that killed Jimmy.

The jury convicted Chavez on all counts in less than an hour.

“Had he gotten away with it, he would have killed again and again and again,” said Michael Band, the man who prosecuted Chavez. Band is now a private defense attorney.

On November 23, 1998, Chavez was sentenced to death.

Judge Marc Schumacher sentenced Chavez to die in old sparky, the electric chair.  But the appeals dragged on for years.

At a hearing in January 2007, his mother said, “You know, it’s been over eleven years since Jimmy was killed, and he was only nine years old.  So he’s been dead longer than he lived.” Jimmy would have been 21 years old at that hearing.

Governor Rick Scott finally signed the death warrant for Chavez in January.

Claudine Ryce didn’t live to see it. She died from coronary disease, a broken heart, in 2009.

Jimmy’s sister Martha took her own life last year at the age of 35.

When Don Ryce learned of the Chavez’s death warrant last month, he wept. His son Ted is his only remaining family.

“We’ve suffered a terrible loss,” said an emotional Don Ryce. “A loss you don’t wish on anyone.”

Monday, February 10th, Chavez was denied a stay of execution by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s one of the final appeals left for Juan Carlos Chavez before his scheduled execution on Wednesday evening.  click here opinion.pdf

A father waits for justice in the notorious South Florida murder of young Jimmy Ryce – Juan Carlos Chavez

february 8, 2014

The years have not healed Don Ryce’s pain, only prolonged it.

It was 1995 when his son, a gap-toothed 9-year-old named Jimmy, was snatched from a Redland school bus stop, raped and killed.

As Ryce counts the last few days until Wednesday’s scheduled execution of his son’s murderer, his anger burns as hot as it did more than 18 years ago. And his sorrow has only been compounded by two more deaths he traces back to that first, monstrous act of a pedophile named Juan Carlos Chavez: the heart attack that killed his wife, Claudine, in 2009 — a “broken heart,” he says — and the suicide last year of his daughter, Jimmy’s half-sister, Martha.

“In both cases, Jimmy’s memory, I can tell you, was very much weighing on them at the time of their death,” Ryce said, talking about the tragedy during a 90-minute interview in his Vero Beach home. “So forgive me if I don’t shed many tears for Juan Carlos Chavez.”

The losses of his wife and daughter blindsided him, just as Jimmy’s did all those years ago when it seemed as though everyone in South Florida showed up to help with the three-month search for a boy grabbed yards from his doorstep. The abduction and horrifying details that emerged later — Chavez had raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, dismembered the boy’s body but kept his book bag, all at a trailer less than a mile from the Ryces’ home — marked the sad beginning of a new and disquieting vigilance that reached far beyond South Florida. Parents clutched their children closer. Authorities scrambled to create better, faster ways to hunt for missing children.

And always the Ryce family was there, front and center, holding each other up, in a national crusade to protect children from predators. Eventually, their son’s legacy would include the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction; the Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center; a program to raise money to give bloodhounds to police departments and the Jimmy Ryce Act, a state law legislators are pushing to toughen, designed to keep sexual predators in custody even after their sentences end if they are still deemed dangerous.

Through it all, Chavez — who sowed the seed of so much pain — has remained alive on Death Row, courtesy of Florida taxpayers. If Chavez is executed Wednesday as scheduled under the death warrant signed by Gov. Rick Scott, Ryce will be there to watch the man he characterized as “a reptilian mutant” draw his last breath.

It’s a promise he and Claudine, both lawyers, made to each other after Chavez was sentenced to death. Don Ryce was the one with health problems at the time, hypertension he developed during the trial, a hellish three weeks of graphic testimony held in Orlando after an impartial jury couldn’t be seated in Miami-Dade County. To make their case, prosecutors used Chavez’s confession in which he told police he pointed a gun at Jimmy and asked him: “Do you want to die?”

One juror burst into loud sobs after a detective displayed three plastic pots that had held Jimmy’s remains. Three others broke down after rendering the guilty verdict.

Afterward, the Ryces pledged to each other that they would witness the execution and “if one of us wasn’t going to be there, the other would, for both,” Ryce said.

If the execution is delayed — legal appeals have been filed, largely based on questions about the mix of chemicals used to render killers unconscious before the lethal injection — Ryce said it will be one more instance in which the predator is given more consideration than the victim or victim’s family.

The prospect infuriates him, he said. “Most of us would only wish we could have that painless a death, as he will have… Talk about cruel and unusual, it would have been cruel and unusual to let him try and escape and shoot him in the back and have his last memory be someone standing over him and gloating over his pain. That happened to my son.”

That last sentence comes out choked with anguish, his voice breaking on the final word.

He struggled for control, steeling himself to return to the point: He has no doubt that Chavez is guilty. Police testified in the trial that Chavez himself begged police for the death penalty, writing in a note before giving the confession led them to Jimmy’s body: “My only wish and objective is to die.”

Chavez would later take the stand to deny his own confession, pointing the finger at someone else.

But the evidence, Ryce said, is overwhelming. “No one that has an ounce of intelligence and looks at the evidence in this case can come to any other conclusion. He’s the guy. He did it. He enjoyed doing it, and he’s about to pay the price that he ought to pay for having killed my son.”

Strong words, reflective of how the Ryces faced tragedy from the start, without sparing themselves and without blaming each other. Private people at heart, they went public after Jimmy’s death, harnessing their pain for prevention work. On the family’s website, jimmyryce.org, they have posted dozens of pictures of their boy’s South Florida childhood from infancy to fifth grade — on the beach, posing by a fallen palm tree, running in shorts with the dog — while also discussing in unflinching terms what they could have done differently as parents.

In today’s world of Amber Alerts, it’s hard to remember how few parents had any real awareness of sexual predators, Ryce says. “I remember how horrified we were when we first found out what the probable motivation was for Jimmy’s abduction. We were convinced he was abducted — we knew right away that he was not a runaway — and these people were trying to break the news to us of what likely was the reason. That was rough to learn.”

It hasn’t gotten easier, not really. The pain is a part of him now, as it was for Claudine up to the day she died.

“You can’t imagine the strain you feel,” he says, his hand straying to his chest. “You hear someone died of a broken heart — and honestly, you feel something going on inside. I mean, that’s as close to a broken heart as I ever want to happen. I think finally it just got her.”

They never saw a grief counselor, serving that role for each other, “which was far more meaningful. There are very few grief counselors that can help in a situation like that.’’

The years and anguish have taken a physical toll. He uses a cane now, a remnant of complications following knee replacement surgery. His constant companion since Claudine’s death is a small white Havanese dog named Ginger who wedges in next to him on his customary chair in his living room. At 70, he is working as an arbitrator on financial cases, basing himself in the Vero Beach home he and Claudine bought in the years after Jimmy went missing, with orange, fig, lemon and pistachio trees in the back yard. At the front door, a large oil portrait of a smiling Jimmy presides. It is Ryce’s favorite portrait of his son, a gift from a Brazilian artist they didn’t even know.

“The grief is going to be there, the anger is certainly part of it, and that includes watching our criminal justice system in its ugliest form. You see people working so hard to protect the person who took away the one that you love,’’ he said. “I’m not angry with everyone who’s against the death penalty — and some of them for ethical reasons — I just respectfully disagree with them.”

He has no interest in hearing from Chavez — “none” — but he wonders whether Chavez would have killed Jimmy “if he had known that he was going to end up where he is now, because he’s fighting hard as he can to stay alive. It matters to him now. I’d love to hear an honest answer as to whether he wishes he hadn’t killed our son. He reveled in it.’’

He’ll go to the execution with his son from his first marriage, Ted, 37, who had mostly stayed in the background, but helped his father through physical rehabilitation after his knee surgery complications.

“I’m very proud of my oldest son. I keep saying, look how he turned out, and I’m sure Jimmy would have turned out well, also. Tall — a lot more active and athletic than I am, I guarantee you. I don’t know where that came from.”

Ryce hopes the execution will offer some feeling of conclusion, maybe more for the South Florida community than for him. “There was sort of a sense of relief after the trial but it will really be over when the execution takes place.”

And then he will try to go on, he says, being an ordinary person forced into circumstances no one would ever want. He’ll keep trying to raise money for the bloodhound program and has just been re-elected as chairman of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearing House.

If he could ask one thing, he’d like people to think of his son — who would be 28 by now — as “just a wonderful little boy, 9 years old, wanting to live his life, and to remember him not as a victim but as a symbol of hope to kids everywhere, a reminder to everyone that if someone tries to take you we will look until we find you … People are going to forget the name Don Ryce and they may even forget the name Claudine Ryce but I don’t think they’ll forget Jimmy Ryce.”

OHIO – Kasich postpones March 19 execution – GREGORY LOTT

february 7, 2014

Gov. John Kasich has postponed the scheduled March 19 execution of Gregory Lott because of lingering concerns about the drugs used in the lethal injection of Dennis McGuire last month.

Kasich this afternoon used his executive clemency power to move Lott’s execution to Nov. 19.

While the governor did not cite a reason, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said he wanted to give the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction time to complete its internal review of McGuire’s Jan. 16 execution. “Gregory Lott committed a heinous crime for which he will be executed,” Nichols said.

During his Jan. 16 execution, McGuire, 53, gasped, choked and clenched his fists, all the while appearing to be unconscious, for at least 10 minutes after the lethal drugs – 10 mg of midazolam, a sedative, and 40 mg of hydromorphone, a morphine derivative – flowed into his body. The drugs had never been used together for an execution.

Attorneys for Lott, 51, are challenging his execution, complaining the drugs could cause “unnecessary pain and suffering” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 19 in the U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost’s court.

Lott, 51, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing John McGrath, 82, by setting him on fire in his Cleveland-area home in 1986. McGrath survived in a hospital for 11 days before dying. Lott came close to execution in 2004, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked it.

Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, praised Kasich for showing “leadership and careful consideration” by issuing a temporary reprieve.


Basso went quietly enough. When asked for a final statement, she said “No, sir,” with a tearful look in her eyes. She reportedly looked to a couple of friends positioned behind a window and “mouthed a brief word to them and nodded.” As the drug began to take hold, she began to snore deeply; the snoring slowed and eventually halted and, eleven minutes after the injection, she was declared dead.

*Last Meal: Last meal requests no longer allowed.

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

filed  february 4 : 5th circuit appeal  pdf

February 5, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A woman convicted of torturing and killing a mentally impaired man she lured to Texas with the promise of marriage was scheduled to be executed Wednesday in a rare case of a female death-row inmate.

If 59-year-old Suzanne Basso is lethally injected as scheduled, the New York native would be only the 14th woman executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. By comparison, almost 1,400 men have been put to death.

Texas, the nation’s busiest death-penalty state, has executed four women and 505 men.

Basso was sentenced to death for the 1998 slaying of 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, whose battered and lacerated body, washed with bleach and scoured with a wire brush, was found in a ditch outside Houston. Prosecutors said Basso had made herself the beneficiary of Musso’s insurance policies and took over his Social Security benefits after luring him from New Jersey.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to halt the execution in a ruling Tuesday, meaning the U.S. Supreme Court is likely her last hope. A state judge ruled last month that Basso had a history of fabricating stories about herself, seeking attention and manipulating psychological tests.

Leading up to her trial, Basso’s court appearances were marked by claims of blindness and paralysis, and speech mimicking a little girl.

Scheduled Executions in Texas

By On July 17, 2013

Texas has passed 500 executions in the modern era since the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty was constitutional. Texas conducted its first execution after the ruling in 1982.

To express your opposition to any execution, you can contact Governor Rick Perry’s office at 512 463 2000. If you call after business hours, you can leave a voice mail message. During business hours, someone should answer the phone. You can also send a message using a form on Perry’s official website.

503) Douglas Feldman, July 31, 2013

TDCJ Info on Feldman

Letter from Feldman to Gawker.com

504) Robert Garza, September 19, 2013 (Law of Parties case)

TDCJ Info on Garza

505) Arturo Diaz, September 26, 2013

TDCJ Info on Diaz

506) Michael Yowell, October 9, 2013

TDCJ Info on Yowell

507) Rigoberto Avila Jr, January 15, 2014

TDCJ Info on Avila, Jr


HOUSTON (July 24, 2013)–State District Judge Mary Lou Keel has set a Feb. 5, 2014 execution date for Suzanne Basso, 59, who’s held on women’s death row in Gatesville.

Suzanne Basso (Texas prison photo)

In July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, the victim in this case, first met either [Basso] or her son, James “J.D.” 0′ Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey.

Musso, 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 Musso moved in with [Basso], Al Becker, Musso’s Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Musso. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with [Basso], but [Basso] eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Musso. Concerned about Musso’s welfare, Becker sought assistance from various state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Musso’s situation. In July of 1998, [Basso] unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Musso’s representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Musso, [Basso] was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Musso’s “wife to be.”

After Musso’s death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Musso’s name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Musso’s death from violent crimes. They also discovered a document entitled Musso’s “Last Will and Testament,” which purported to leave Musso’s entire estate to [Basso] while “no one else [was] to get a cent.” In the days leading up to his death, Musso suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of [Basso] and her five co-defendants. [Basso] would take Musso to the apartment of co- defendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice’s son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope’s fiancé), where Musso was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours.

Whenever Musso attempted to get off the mat, O’Malley would beat or kick him. O’Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Musso, and O’Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. [Basso] beat Musso 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 Musso had been “misbehaving” while she was away from the apartment, [Basso], who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Musso while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground.

At one point, Musso requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted,recognized the extent of Musso’s injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O’Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and Pine- Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body.

Apparently, his killers were giving Musso this kind of “bath” when he died.

On the morning of August 28, 1999, Musso’s body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Musso’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 Musso’s body and was unable to count the “hundreds” of bruises that covered Musso from head to toe.

The palms of Musso’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. Musso’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 Musso’s scalp. On the evening before Musso’s body was discovered, [Basso] began what evolved into a lengthy attempt to establish that Musso had run away.

She made several phone calls to people, including Becker, a niece of Musso’s, and the local police, expressing concern about Musso’s whereabouts. [Basso] claimed that Musso 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 Musso’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.