STARKE (CBSMiami) – Juan Carlos Chavez, the man who raped, murdered, and then dismembered the body of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce received the state of Florida’s ultimate punishment Wednesday when he was executed.
Chavez, 46, was executed at 8:17 p.m. at the Florida State Prison in Starke.
The night was full of drama as a last minute appeal from Chavez’s attorney delayed the execution by more than an hour.
Shortly before 7:30 p.m., the entire Supreme Court denied the writ of certiorari and a request for a stay of execution which cleared the way for Chavez’s execution.
Another earlier denial came from the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday morning. The Florida Supreme Court denied Chavez’s request largely because his filing, “constitutes a delaying tactic that is not supported by equitable considerations.”
Chavez’s last meal was: ribeye steak, French fries, hot sauce, fruit mix, strawberry ice cream, mango juice.
The crime Chavez was convicted of nearly 18 years ago shocked residents in Miami-Dade County. Chavez kidnapped Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint just after he got off a school bus on September 11, 1995 in southwestern Miami-Dade County.
Search helicopters filled the skies above South Florida for the next few days as strangers offered up prayers for the little boy. Police went through thousands of leads from all across the country. Jimmy’s photo was all over the news and a missing person flier was being put up everywhere across the area.
Three months would pass from that warm September day when Jimmy vanished before police would catch a break in the case. Ranch owner Susan Scheinhaus thought her ranch hand was stealing from her and went into his trailer on the property.
Once inside, she discovered a gun that belonged to her and found little Jimmy’s backpack filled with his school books and homework.
The ranch hand, Chavez, told detectives a series of stories before revealing what happened to Jimmy. He took the terrified boy to a remote trailer where he raped the child. When Jimmy heard helicopters overhead Chavez shot him to death as Jimmy tried to run from the mobile home trailer.
While Jimmy was dead, the crime got worse. Chavez told police he took Jimmy’s body to the Scheinhaus Ranch, dismembered the body and put the pieces in planters before filling them with concrete. Police found the planters exactly where Chavez said they would be.
Chavez was found guilty of murder, sexual battery, and kidnapping.
In recent weeks, Chavez has appealed to both state and federal courts trying to have his execution delayed or canceled. His appeals have focused on claims that Florida’s lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional, the drug used constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, that he didn’t get due process during clemency hearings, and that he should be allowed to pursue additional appeals in the federal courts.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, all of his appeals had been rejected or were still pending before the court.
Don Ryce, Jimmy’s father, said that he and his late wife were determined to turn their son’s murder 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 for the rest of their lives.
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.
Unless U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas grant Chavezs a stay of execution, the man found guilty of one of the most heinous murders in the last 20 years in Miami-Dade County will be executed Wednesday.
Both Don Ryce and his son Ted will attend the execution and will be speaking to the media afterward on behalf of the family. The execution will come 6,730 days since Jimmy was murdered.
CBS4’s Gary Nelson and Eliott Rodriguez are both in Starke to cover Wednesday’s execution and will have reports from the Florida State Prison throughout the day Wednesday.
CBS4’s Nelson witnessed the execution of Chavez and shared what he saw on CBS4 News.
For more on the Jimmy Ryce case, click here.
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