- Serial killer Ted Bundy has confessed to killing 30 women
- 3 women on death row are being held at the Lowell Annex in Lowell, north of Ocala
- Allen Lee Davis was the last person to die from electrocution in Florida
If Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz had been sentenced to death instead of life in prison, he would have been convicted of killing far more people than any other inmate on Florida’s death row — ever.
Before a Broward County jury was summoned to decide whether Cruz should live or die, he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The scale of Cruz’s killing spree far eclipses that of any other inmate who has been executed, or any of the 302 men and women currently on death row in three Florida prisons.
Others, like the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, either claimed or were suspected of having killed dozens of people. But Bundy, who has confessed to killing 30 women and is believed to have killed many more, was only convicted of the 1978 murders of two coeds at Florida State University’s Chi Omega house and a 12-year-old girl in Lake City.
Of those currently on death row, no one has been convicted of killing more than six people.
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The horror of the 2004 Xbox murders in Deltona
Troy Victorino and Jerome Hunter were convicted for their roles in what is known as the “Xbox Murders” or “The Deltona Massacre.”
In 2004, Victorino encouraged Hunter and two other men to break into a home in Deltona, where they beat to death four men, two women and a dog. Victorino accused one of the victims of having him evicted from the vacant house. He wanted revenge and get the Xbox he left behind.
Rory Enrique Conde, who has been on death row since March 2000, is known as the “Tamiami Trail Strangler”. He was convicted of killing six prostitutes along a well-known Miami freeway over five months from September 1994 to January 1995.
Mesac Damas also claimed six lives. A Collier County man was convicted of stabbing his wife and five children to death in 2009. After he fled and was arrested in his native Haiti, he told agents that “evil spirits” and voices were telling him his wife was leaving him.
Nikolas Cruz would be by far the youngest person on death row
At age 24, Cruz was also by far the youngest inmate on Florida’s death row, the nation’s second largest.
Florida corrections officials say 30-year-old Michael Bargo is the youngest inmate to wear the distinctive orange T-shirt used to distinguish death row inmates from other inmates.
Bargo was the leader of a group of teenagers who lured 15-year-old Seath Jackson to a home near Ocala in 2011, beat him, fatally shot him, burned the body in a bonfire and dumped the boy’s remains in a rock quarry. .
Executions in early 20th century Florida
But younger men than Cruz were executed. Four sixteen-year-old boys, all black, received the maximum sentence. Three of them were executed in the 1940s. The one who was executed in 1927 became the first to die in the oak electric chair built by prisoners four years earlier.
The death penalty was suspended in Florida in 1964 while the US Supreme Court considered its constitutionality. The same electric chair from the 1920s was used in 1979 when John Spenkelink became the first in Florida and the second in the nation to be executed after the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in 1974.
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In the following years, Florida killed 97 men and two women.
The last execution in Florida
Florida has not had an execution since 2019, when Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the deaths of two serial killers. The last person to be executed in Florida was Gary Ray Bowles, who killed six men along Interstate 95 from Florida to Maryland in 1994.
DeSantis signed a third death warrant, but a federal judge stayed the execution.
The three-year delay is the longest in 39 years, according to Florida Politics. DeSantis’ fellow Republican predecessor, now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, signed a record 28 death sentences over two terms.
A spokesman for DeSantis told the online news service that the comparison to the governor’s predecessors was inappropriate because they didn’t have to deal with a global pandemic.
The distinction of Florida as the nation’s second largest death row is somewhat misleading.
California leads the nation with nearly 700 inmates on death row. But California’s last execution took place in 2006, and Gov. Gavin Newsom began eliminating death row at San Quentin State Prison this year, a year after imposing a moratorium on executions.
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The average time spent on death row is about 19 years
Nationally, inmates spent an average of 19.4 years on death row at the end of 2020. Those executed in 2020 spent an average of 18.9 years awaiting execution, according to the US Department of Justice.
In Florida, the average age of an inmate scheduled to be executed is 44.9 years — about 18 years after the average age when they committed their crimes.
There are 52 inmates on Florida’s death row who were convicted of murders committed in South Florida. Eight are from Palm Beach, 21 from Broward and 23 from Miami-Dade counties.
At least one man has been convicted in separate murders in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Some of the convicted inmates were sentenced to death for murders they committed in other counties, but were also convicted of crimes in South Florida.
Palm Beach County’s longest-serving inmate is 66-year-old Paul Scott, who was convicted of beating florist James Alessi to death in his Boca Raton home in 1978. The latest arrival is Marlin Joseph, who was found guilty of murder in the 2017 shooting deaths of his mother’s friend, Kaladaa Crowell, and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett, in West Palm Beach.
Where death row inmates are housed and how they are treated
Men like Scott and Joseph are housed in either the Florida State Penitentiary or Union Correctional Institution, two prisons in Raiford. The three women on death row are being held at the Lowell Annex in Lowell, north of Ocala.
Inmates are housed in 6-foot-by-9-foot cells and are allowed to shower every other day, state corrections officials said. Prisoners are given sporks to eat the three meals they receive each day. They are checked once an hour and are handcuffed whenever they are allowed to leave their cells.
In 2000, The Palm Beach Post estimated that Florida spends $51 million more annually on capital punishment enforcement than the cost of housing all first-degree murderers serving life sentences.
The electric chair has not been used since 1999, but is still an option
Florida, home of the infamous “Old Sparky,” hasn’t executed anyone by electric chair since July 1999.
Allen Lee Davis, convicted of beating to death a pregnant Jacksonville woman and fatally shooting her two young daughters, was the latest person to be electrocuted in Florida.
He was bleeding profusely from the nose and suffered burns to his head, leg and groin, leading critics to claim it was the state’s second botched execution in two years and the third since 1990.
An investigation found that the electric chair worked properly, and the Florida Supreme Court upheld its use. But a year later, state lawmakers agreed that lethal injection could be used as an alternative.
Prisoners can still choose to die in the electric chair.
In 2015, Wayne Doty did. With legal questions swirling around the constitutionality of lethal injection, the twice-convicted murderer said he did not want his death to be delayed, so he chose to die in the electric chair.
“I am invoking my right of free will to choose electrocution because of the conflict (sic) surrounding execution by lethal injection,” he explained in a handwritten statement.
Ironically, it was lawsuits filed challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty system, not lethal injection, that stopped Doty’s execution. He remains on death row for choking to death a fellow inmate serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a night watchman during a 1996 Plant City robbery.
The private investigator said Doty’s death wish was fueled by his experience in prison.
“It’s 10 times worse than you expected, and you have no hope,” investigator Sean Fisher told the AP.
Jane Musgrave covers federal and civil courts and occasionally takes on state court criminal cases. Contact her at [email protected]