MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Almost 19 years ago, the Ryce family was changed forever at the hands of Juan Carlos Chavez when he took the life of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce. At 8:17 pm Wednesday night, in front of Jimmy Ryce’s father, brother and several other witnesses, Chavez was executed by lethal injection.
Nine-year-old Jimmy was kidnapped at gunpoint by Chavez just after he got off a school bus on September 11, 1995 in southwestern Miami-Dade County.
Three months later, Chavez told detectives all the gruesome details, and he was eventually found guilty of murder, sexual battery, and kidnapping.
Don Ryce, Jimmy’s father, stood in front of the media Wednesday night following Chavez’s execution with a strong message for anyone who might prey on children.
“Nineteen years ago, Juan Carlos Chavez was faced with a choice,” were Ryce’s first words to the media. “He had kidnapped my son Jimmy, he had sexually assaulted him, and now it was time to decide–would he let him live or would he take his life? We know what he decided to do and the choice he made and—as a result of that choice—he died today.”
Ryce then went on to say that the choice that Chavez made, to kidnap and rape his son Jimmy, will come up in the future in other cases when someone else, another molester, has “the same kind-of choice that Chavez was faced with so long ago,”—to let the child go, or to kill the kid.
“And when they do, when they’re processing what they think they want to do, I hope they will remember and that it will be burned in their mind four words…don’t kill the child,” said Ryce. “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 left the podium for his son Ted, Jimmy’s older brother who is now a personal trainer in South Florida, to give a prepared statement on behalf of the Ryce family.
The statement went as follows: “Many people have asked why I decided to come today. I did not come here today to celebrate Juan Carlos’s execution. In fact, I did not want to be here today. So why did I come? I came here to represent my brother, Jimmy Ryce. I came here for my sister, Martha, and my mother Claudine.
I came here today because I believe in the justice that has been served this day. I am here to support that belief. I also came here today as a symbol of strength. To show you that in spite of all the terrible tragedies we’ve been through, my father and I still stand strong. And strength is something that we are sorely lacking in our country today.
Many people did not believe that Juan Carlos Chavez should be put to death for his horrible crime of raping and murdering my brother. And I believe this comes from a place of weakness – not strength. It comes from not being able to face the atrociousness of some men’s actions and punish them on a level commensurate with their crime.
But we must be strong. We must do what it takes to send a clear message to other child predators that if they go after children – if they kill children – that they will die at the executioner’s hands.
Today will bring no closure. As my father has stated, “closure” does not exist. But the justice served this day after a painful 19 years will end the chapter on this part of our life. And now we look forward to moving on. Thank you.”
Click Here to read Chavez’s final statement before his execution.