On Feb. 12, the Florida Supreme Court refused 46-year-old Juan Carlos Chavez’s plea for a stay of execution and went through with the Fla. man’s execution by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Chavez, convicted of the kidnapping, rape, murder, and ultimate dismemberment of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce in 1995, was pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m. on Wednesday.
According to ABC News, Chavez kidnapped the 9-year-old at gunpoint when the boy got off his Miami-Dade school bus on Sept. 11, 1995.
Testimony showed Chavez raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, then dismembered his body and hid the parts in concrete-covered planters.
Jimmy’s dad, Don Ryce, spoke out following the execution saying that he hoped Chavez’s lethal injection would send “a strong signal to other would-be child molesters and abductors.”
"Don't kill the child. Because if you do, people will not forget, they will not forgive. We will hunt you down and we will put you to death."
Volunteers and authorities searched relentlessly for Jimmy when he went missing in 1995. After three months of searching though, Chavez’s landlady found Jimmy’s book bag in Chavez’s mobile home. The landlady also found the murder weapon – “a revolver Chavez had stolen from her house.”
Chavez later confessed to police and led them to Jimmy's remains.
After Jimmy’s death, the Ryce family devoted their efforts to pushing for more effective laws “regarding confinement of sexual predators and improved police procedures in missing child cases,” and started up the non-profit Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction.
The organization, headquartered in Vero Beach and created in Jimmy’s honor:
- Provides AKC bloodhounds free to law enforcement to find abducted and lost children.
- Counsels and provides support to parents of children abducted by sexual predators.
- Increases public awareness of sexual predators and predatory abductions through speeches, brochures, and radio and television appearances.
- Provides information to teachers and parents on what to teach children to make them more predator smart and thus more predator resistant.
- Identifies legislation and programs which better protect children from sexual predators.
- Assists law enforcement in developing more effective procedures for handling predatory abductions.
- Works to improve coordination and cooperation among state missing children information clearinghouses, missing children nonprofit organizations, and law enforcement.
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.
Chavez had no final statements to share at his execution, but did release a statement “laced with religious references.”
He said he had found forgiveness in religion and that he wished for "unfailing love be upon us, upon me, upon those who today take the life out of this body, as well as those who in their blindness or in their pain desire my death. God bless us all."
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