Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant Thursday for the man who kidnapped, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce on his way home from school almost 20 years ago.
Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Feb. 12 for the Sept. 11, 1995, murder in a rural area in Miami-Dade County.
It was a case that horrified the state and led to the passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows authorities to commit dangerous sexual predators to mental institutions once they have completed their prison terms. The law would not have stopped Chavez, however, as he had no previous record for sex crimes.
Jimmy had just been let off his school bus when Chavez kidnapped him and brought him to a trailer on the ranch where he was a handyman. He raped the boy and held him at gunpoint for more than three hours, finally shooting him as he tried to escape. He chopped the body up, put the remains in large planters and then sealed them with concrete. He was arrested almost three months later after the boy’s book bag was found in the trailer. He then gave a detailed confession to the crime.
A judge moved the trial from Miami-Dade to Central Florida because of pretrial publicity. He was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to death.
“Justice will finally be done in the murder of my son, Jimmy,” the boy’s father, Don Ryce, said in a statement emailed to the news media. “I feel a combination of sadness and relief. I hope this sends a message to predators that this behavior will not go unpunished.”
The execution comes as lawmakers try to strengthen sexual-offense laws, including possible tweaks to the Jimmy Ryce Act.
After the murder, Ryce and his wife ,Claudine, who died in 2009, worked to pass laws that would help find abducted children and prevent similar crimes.
During the search for Jimmy, they put up posters in courthouses and public buildings that were taken down because they weren’t authorized. In response, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to post missing-children posters in post offices, federal courthouses and other federal buildings.
The couple, both lawyers, raised awareness about the need for law enforcement to search for missing children sooner, noting that most children who are abducted are killed within 48 hours.
They also set up a nonprofit group that provides bloodhounds to police agencies, support for parents of abducted children and increases awareness about sexual predators.